in association with
Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS,
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS:
ADDRESSING THE YOUNG PEOPLE/
This report is part of the CIPD’s Learning to Work initiative, which
is an action-focused programme led by the CIPD to tackle the
problem of youth unemployment. The overall aim is to achieve a
shift in employer engagement with young people, so that they are
encouraged both to help young people prepare for the workplace
and to make the labour market itself more youth-friendly, by offering
a wider range of access routes into organisations and adapting
Methodology and acknowledgements 2
Executive summary 4
1 Young people and the labour market 8
2 How employers recruit young people 12
3 Young people’s experiences of looking for work and recruitment practices 17
4 Social media and the recruitment of young people 24
5 Addressing the young people and jobs mismatch 27
EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
2 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
This report is based on evidence collected through:
• around 30 employer case studies across all sectors and sizes in
England and Scotland, carried out in February and March 2013
• two focus groups with Steps Ahead mentors (HR
professionals) and mentees (young jobseekers) in Leicester
and Northampton carried out in February 2013
• one focus group with the Prince’s Trust Young Ambassadors,
carried out in March 2013
• one focus group with students at the Regent’s University,
London, carried out in March 2013
• an employer focus group organised by the British Chambers
of Commerce in Birmingham in February 2013
• a mini-survey with Jobcentre Plus advisers carried out in
• preliminary findings of the CIPD Resourcing and Talent
Planning survey 2013 (forthcoming) to be published in
partnership with Hays.
The author of this report would like to thank all the employers
that have kindly shared with us their practices and experiences:
Vanessa Paul (Standard Chartered), Alan MacKinnon (IHS),
Neil Morrison (Random House), Liz Eddy (NHS), Marcus
Lee (Santander), Laura Taylor (Thames Water), Karina Rook
(Canterbury College), Sam Follington (Veolia), Maurice Collis
(Averda), Stuart Evans (Qatar National Bank), Jo Ward (Nestlé),
Shaun Meekins (Barclays RRB), Jane Daly and Helen Alkin
(Marks & Spencer), Martin Hottass (Siemens), Anouska Ramsay
(Capgemini), Jennifer Lee (Jurys Inn), Liz White and Sandra Kelly
(Whitbread), Dominic Gill (Microsoft), Donna Browne and Neil
Armstrong (Boots), Robert Seacombe (Experian), Claire Fuller
(Asda), Sharon Goymer (National Grid), Marsha Witter and
Catherine Schlieben (ITV), Louise Bjerregaard and Liz McGivern
(Red Carnation Hotels), Michael Brewis (Aberdeenshire Council),
Robert Allan (Apex Hotels), Marc Anderson-Boyd (Taylor Nash),
Michael Maddick (RBS), Harsha Gadhvi (Microsoft), Sam
Newman (WR Refrigeration) and our thanks to all the other
employers we spoke to as part of the research.
The author would also like to thank:
• Steps Ahead mentors who took part in our focus groups
in Leicester and Northampton: Henrietta O’Connor, Chris
Swaine, Sam Newman, Ian Nightingale, Jo Kehoe, Denis
Plater, Lisa Sirett, Sandra Beale and the young jobseekers
who took part in our focus groups: Matthew, Vijay,
Abibatu, Preeti, Gulcin
• the Young Ambassadors who took part in our focus group
organised by the Prince’s Trust: Bennett, Rose, Nick and Keith
• the participants of the focus group organised by the British
Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in Birmingham: Philippa Hart
(Hart Recruitment), Gemma Fiddler (BCC), Sarah McQueen
(EEF West Midlands Technology Centre), Eloise Grant, Nicki
Lewis-Downing, Simon Lord (PPDG), Delia Kidanu and Eleanor
Clatworthy (AIESEC Birmingham)
• Nikki Wade and Lizzie Guinness at the Prince’s Trust for
organising and running a focus group with their young
people for us
• Gerard O’Donnell and Graham Bann at BITC for helping to
secure employer interviews
• Matthew Bennett from the National Partnership Team at
Jobcentre Plus for his help with dissemination of a survey to
• Andrea Broughton at the Institute for Employment Studies
(IES) for her input to the section on social media
• Matthias Feist, Head of Department, Careers and Business
Relations and Alister Simpson, Careers Information Officer
at the Regent’s University for their input and for their
• David Massey at the UK Commission for Employment and
Skills, Anthony Mann at the Education and Employers
Taskforce and Chris Goulden at the Joseph Rowntree
Foundation for input to this research
• Anne Tipple from the British Chambers of Commerce
(BCC) and Henrik Court from the Birmingham Chamber
of Commerce for organising an employer focus group in
Birmingham for us
• colleagues at the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS),
notably Caroline Mason for her input on the online vacancy
• Siobhan Cronin at QA Apprenticeship for a training provider
angle on apprenticeships
• Adam Swash from Experian and Working for Youth for his
input and help with organising employer case studies
• Kate Shoesmith at the Recruitment and Employment
Confederation (REC) for her input on the recruitment
• colleagues at the CIPD: Annie Peate for carrying out a
literature review and her help in carrying out employer
interviews, Kelly Duncan for organising focus groups and
her general input to the young people dimension of the
research, Claire McCartney for help with developing the
research questions and input from the Resourcing and
Talent Planning survey, Ben Willmott for carrying out some
case studies and an HRD forum discussion in Scotland and
Katherine Garrett for help with the final report.
The author would also like to thank the members of the Learning
to Work advisory group (see end of report) for their support and
feedback on initial findings of the research.
This publication is part of the CIPD’s Learning to Work
programme and was written by Katerina Rüdiger, Skills Policy
For comments and feedback please contact:
3EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
We live in extraordinary times. Youth unemployment is still
at a record high, with too many young people struggling to
find their first job. At the same time, employers often find
it difficult to get the skills they need. This mismatch needs
to be addressed. Our research highlights ways in which we
can bridge the divide between young people and employers.
On the one hand employers need to adapt their recruitment
practices to more successfully engage with young people,
while on the other, young people need to increase their
employability skills and understanding about what is expected
from them during the recruitment process.
As the professional body for those at the forefront of
decision-making around workforce investment, talent
development and recruitment, I feel the CIPD has a substantial
contribution to make in developing best practice in this area.
We have made the business case for employer investment
in young people in previous outputs of our CIPD Learning to
Work programme, which aims to get employers involved in
tackling youth unemployment. This piece of research builds
on this work, by producing advice on how businesses can
translate their intentions into actions and bring more young
people into their organisations. Many of the organisations
we feature in this report do so already. They do so because
it is the right thing to do but also because it makes business
sense. If we want to be ready for the future, we need to
re-examine our approach to workforce investment and start
building our talent pipelines now.
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
4 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus:
Addressing the young people/jobs mismatch draws on a range
of sources, including employer case studies, focus groups with
young jobseekers, a mini-survey of Jobcentre Plus advisers
and interviews with career advisers and training providers. The
aim of the research was to explore the mismatch between
employers and young people at the recruitment stage and
make recommendations for how to overcome any divides.
The research has found that:
• There is a real mismatch between employers’ expectations
of young people during the recruitment process and young
people’s understanding of what is expected of them,
particularly when it comes to presentation and preparation.
• Employers find it difficult to assess young people with limited
work experience and young people find it difficult to ‘market’
themselves to employers.
• Young people value more open recruitment channels, such
as social media, above more traditional means of recruitment
such as corporate websites and online job boards.
• The limited number of access routes into work available
for young people is still a concern. This is particularly the
case in highly skilled sectors, such as professional services.
However, evidence from our case studies indicates that more
employers are developing, or planning to develop, more
diverse access routes such as school-leavers’ programmes
• Most employers don’t specifically target young people with
their recruitment practices, although some have started to
change the ways in which they recruit young people to get the
best out of young candidates.
• Job search and the recruitment process are a frustrating
and demotivating experience for most young people.
Many young people lack the knowledge about job
opportunities, how to apply for jobs, how to write a good
CV and a good application.
• Too many young people have a scattergun approach to
applying for jobs rather than researching where they want to
work. This results in a high volume of applications that need
to be processed by the employer and can be demotivating for
young people when they are unsuccessful.
• Confidence is an issue for many young people and many find
interview situations particularly stressful as they have no prior
experience of the workplace and they often don’t know how
to talk about their skills or how to ‘market’ themselves to a
• Recruitment processes are lengthy and not very transparent,
often involving up to five stages; young people lack an insight
of the process and what is expected from them during the
• There is a lack of support for young people during the
transition from education to work, which is preceded by poor
advice and guidance at school.
• Employer feedback is crucial for young people, yet this is
something employers struggle to provide, especially during the
first stage of the process due to the volume of applications.
To address the mismatches outlined above, the report makes
a number of recommendations for employers and policy-
makers. The CIPD has also committed to further action on this
issue, explained in more detail below.
Drawing on the experience of other employers and young
people, the report makes eight key recommendations
specifically aimed at employers:
• Make the business case for recruiting young people to line
managers and colleagues. Highlight the benefits, such as
the need to build talent pipelines, the skills and motivation
of young people, the importance of workplace diversity,
the enhancement of the employer brand and the cost-
effectiveness of developing your own staff.
• Adapt your expectations of young people so that you are
realistic about how work-ready they will be when they
first arrive. Young people don’t always know how to
behave in the recruitment process but managers should be
encouraged to look beyond first impressions, such as the
way people are dressed, and give young people a chance.
• Think about the roles and access routes for young people
into your organisation. As well as obvious options such as
graduate schemes, think about whether other routes such
as apprenticeship schemes or school-leaver programmes
could work for your business.
• Take action to attract from a wider pool of young
people. Where and how you advertise opportunities is
important. Young people can be sceptical of ‘corporate’
communications and are more likely to respond to
humorous and innovative content. You can also broaden
your outreach by promoting opportunities via a range of
methods, such as social media, attending recruitment fairs,
engaging with schools and advertising via Jobcentre Plus,
as well as traditional methods such as local newspapers
• Ensure your selection processes are youth-friendly and
transparent. There are a number of basic things you can
do to ensure you get the best calibre of young people
applying for opportunities:
– Provide the closing date and contact details for the
– Be open about the recruitment process, what the stages
are and the expectations during those stages.
– Develop simple, easy-to use application forms.
– Be clear about the selection criteria and review it for each
new job – is experience or a degree really essential?
5EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
• Conduct interviews that get the best out of young
candidates. It can be a very intimidating process for young
people and the more information they are provided with
in advance, such as how to dress and who they will be
meeting, the better. You can also put them at ease by
beginning with an informal chat and giving them a tour
of the office. The type of interview is also important;
competency-based interviews are generally not suitable
for young people as they don’t have the previous work
experience to draw on, whereas strength-based exercises
allow you to see their potential to learn.
• Provide feedback where possible. By giving open, honest
and constructive feedback you can directly influence young
people’s behaviour in the recruitment process and help
ensure their success in the future. It might not be possible
to provide individualised feedback at every stage, but
simple things such as an automated email to acknowledge
an application and a list of ‘common reasons’ why an
application might not have been shortlisted can be really
useful. We recommend that you do take the time to provide
one-to-one feedback for candidates that made it to interview
or assessment centre stage, but keep this positive by not
focusing on where they went wrong but explaining why
the role might not be right for them. Also consider whether
you might be able to refer the young person on to other
opportunities via your supply chain.
As well as employers, policy-makers also have a role to play in
improving the prospects of young people:
• There is a need for greater support for young people during
the transition phase between education and employment.
Most young people do not know where to turn when they
try to enter the labour market, and we recommend that the
Government commits to provide a dedicated support service
for young jobseekers.
• Careers advice and guidance and work preparation should
be a part of the national curriculum and schools need to be
assessed in how well they are doing in this area to incentivise
them to put more efforts into this. We asked young people
what they would do if they were Education Minister, to make
improvements in this area, and this is what they said:
– Don’t rely on teachers but get external experts, including
employers, into schools to talk about these issues.
– Pay attention to those areas where greater advice is
needed; address the patchiness of the current advice.
– Career advice and guidance needs to be embedded into
the education system as part of the curriculum.
– There needs to be more information on what choices
are available for those leaving school, in particular
apprenticeships and other alternatives to university.
– More support should be given to encourage employer
contact and work experience opportunities.
In order to help reduce the gap between employers and young
people, the CIPD is committed to:
• Produce guidance on recruitment aimed at young people.
• Work with employer bodies to develop an established set of
recommendations for those involved in recruitment.
• Develop guidance for employers on youth employment and
how to manage young people effectively.
• Launch a project with the Education and Employers Taskforce
(EET) to bring CIPD members into schools to provide pupils
with advice on CV writing, interview techniques and job
• Expand our volunteer initiative ‘Steps Ahead mentoring’
which matches young jobseekers with CIPD members.
• Work with the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to help
increase the matching of young people and apprenticeship
6 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
DO EMPLOYERS NEED TO ADAPT THEIR
‘Our young employees are extremely important to us. What I’d
say to other employers is that if you have a problem with your
recruitment of young people, you need to find out what this is
and remove the obstacles’ (Jennifer Lee, HR Director, Jurys Inn).
Good recruitment practices should be fit for purpose for all
candidates. So we could question why employers would need to
adapt their recruitment practices to make them more ‘youth-
friendly’. After all, positive age discrimination is against the law.
Furthermore, if recruitment practices haven’t been targeting
young people in the past, why should this change now?
Indeed, some organisations are uncomfortable with targeting
specific groups via their recruitment processes, and perhaps
rightly so. The supermarket chain Asda, for example, say they
haven’t adapted their recruitment processes to suit young
people’s needs and are not considering this: ‘We believe in
fair, consistent and inclusive processes for all, which addresses
young people within this,’ argues Claire Fuller, Resourcing
Manager at Asda. This is a very valid point, in particular as
some of the issues we’ve encountered in our research are
purely to do with good recruitment practices (or the lack
thereof) more generally. Similarly, another organisation told us
they don’t believe employers should change their recruitment
practices to suit young people, stating that recruitment should
be equitable and all candidates should be treated the same:
‘We should be able to expect the same from all candidates
who interview. There shouldn’t be any exceptions for young
people’ says their HR Manager
In an ideal world we’d like organisations to practise inclusive,
good recruitment that considers the different needs of
candidates, which would include young people, older
workers, BME and other minorities. However, while this is a
longer-term goal and beyond the parameters of this specific
research project, we think that in the short term, young
people are a specific segment of the market that needs
looking at, for the following reasons:
• Youth unemployment is still disproportionally high,
with a young person being 3.5 times more likely to be
unemployed than an adult, with negative consequences
for the individuals, society and organisations that risk not
being able to access the skills in the future. Nearly half
of the employers we surveyed in the CIPD’s Learning to
Work survey (CIPD 2012b) agreed that young people are
disadvantaged in today’s labour market.
• In the past employers used to be more pragmatic about
issues around ‘work-readiness’ and be more used to
bringing in young people, so that unconscious bias didn’t
exist. Furthermore, the labour market offered more entry-
level positions for young people that were used as access
routes into organisations. So both employer behaviour and
the labour market structure have changed to negatively
impact on youth employment.
• The labour market is getting much, much more complex, so
if employers don’t actively go out and promote their sectors
and industries and the occupations within them, they risk
not being able to get the skills they need for the future.
Some employers already report difficulties in filling their
vacancies, and if we don’t improve the matching of labour
market demand and supply, this risk is set to increase.
• Rapid changes in technology mean that the current
generation of young people is actually different from the
previous. This offers many opportunities to employers
to capitalise on the digital skills young people possess.
However, it also means that young people see and perceive
information very differently and that employers need to
review their communication with young people. Social
media in particular offers a largely untapped tool with which
to increase employer engagement with young people.
Interestingly, when we asked Jobcentre Plus advisers whether
employers should adapt their recruitment processes to engage
with young people, an overwhelming majority said yes (75%.)1
IS RECRUITMENT ‘YOUTH-FRIENDLY’?
‘We are not thinking about young people when we are
recruiting. Smaller companies are just not targeting their
recruitment strategies. We advertise on our website but how
many young people would actually know about this and go to
our website?’ (Employer focus group, BCC, Birmingham)
There are a number of reasons why young people struggle
with labour market entry:
• a general employer bias against young people (in particular
amongst those employers who don’t recruit young people)
• preference to recruit workers who are more experienced,
and immediately productive, favouring a ‘finished
product’ rather than a workforce investment,‘growing
your own’ approach
• a structural shift towards more high-skilled jobs and fewer
entry-level positions, especially in industries which employ
a high number of young people
• a lack of knowledge among young people about
occupations, career pathways and the breadth of
• a decrease in work experience leading to a perception of
reduced ‘work-readiness’ amongst young people (see CIPD
2012a, 2012b for more details).
We have already explored many of these issues in earlier
publications of our CIPD Learning to Work programme (see
for example the Business Case for Employer Investment in
CIPD mini-survey carried out with JCP advisers, 91 responses, March 2013
7EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
Young People (CIPD 2012)); and they have also been well
documented and researched by organisations such as the
UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the
Education and Employers Taskforce (EET).
Despite the research available looking at young people and
labour market difficulties, we actually know very little about
existing recruitment practices and processes in connection
to young people. We don’t know how recruitment practices
impact on young people and we don’t know whether
employers are adapting, or are considering adapting, their
recruitment practices to help them attract a greater and
more diverse number of young people. Research carried out
15 years ago found that ‘many employers, even those who
ultimately recruit young people, make no special effort to
recruit young people,’ suggesting that when they do hire
young people this is merely an incidental outcome of their
recruitment activity (Hasluck 1998). We wanted to know
whether this is still the case and, if so, what impact this is
having on youth employment. We also wanted to know if
there are employers that have adapted or are adapting their
recruitment practices, how and why they’re doing so, and
with what level of success.
A review of the literature found that there is a limited amount
of information which specifically addresses the recruitment and
selection of young people. However, the information available
suggests that the majority of employers are not adapting existing
or are not pursuing new practices specifically designed to make
their recruitment more ‘youth-friendly’. In our forthcoming CIPD
Resourcing and Talent Planning survey 2013, to be published
in partnership with Hays, we asked employers whether they
had adapted their recruitment processes to make them more
accessible to young people. A majority (64%) said they did
not, with only just under a quarter saying they did adapt their
BRIDGING THE EMPLOYER–YOUNG PEOPLE GAP
‘Young people require an interviewer who “gets them” and is
able to draw out their skills. Line managers need guidance on
how to do that. It’s a challenge to remember that young people
have little or no first-hand experience of a workplace. We need
to allow for this.’ (Alan MacKinnon, Director, Talent Acquisition
EMEA, IHS Consulting)
More specifically in the context of youth unemployment, there
are three reasons why we think it is important to have a closer
look at recruitment practices and explore the role they play in
inhibiting or encouraging youth labour market entry:
• First, we know that many employers genuinely want to
employ more young people, but that something occurs
during the recruitment process that means that this intention
does not translate into actual hiring outcomes. We wanted
to unpack this issue and find out exactly what is going on.
• Second, through our work with young jobseekers who
take part in our CIPD mentoring initiative (Steps Ahead
Mentoring), we’ve received personal accounts of how it
feels being locked out of the labour market. We wanted to
highlight some of the underlying issues and how we can
help young people to overcome these.
• Third, employer expectations are something young people
struggle with, so we wanted to examine these expectations
more closely to establish whether both young people and
employers can make some changes in their behaviour to help
address the existing mismatch.
FROM CHALLENGES TO SOLUTIONS
This report aims to present a full picture of current recruitment
practices and young people, through the eyes of both
employers and young people. The intention is to explore the
extent of the mismatch between job opportunities and young
people and how this can be addressed. To do so we will:
• briefly revisit young people’s situation in the labour market,
including employer expectations of young people and young
people’s expectations of work (section 1)
• look at how employers go about recruiting young people
and at employers’ views on young people during the
recruitment process (section 2)
• illustrate young people’s experiences of looking for work,
their views on current recruitment methods and what
disadvantages them in the labour market (section 3)
• look at the role social media can play in the recruitment of
young people (section 4)
• draw out some recommendations on how we can better
match young people and jobs through the evidence collected
and share best practice (section 5).
8 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
Young people are amongst the most disadvantaged groups
in the labour market. As a result many young people
struggle with the transition from education to work and
find it difficult to gain a foothold in the labour market: our
research shows that one in four employers did not recruit
a single young person aged 16–24 in the last year (CIPD
2012c). Furthermore, around one in ten organisations even
noted a decline in the number of young people they took on
in 2012 (CIPD 2012a).
YOUNG PEOPLE: AN INVESTMENT ‘RISK’
Generally, employers prefer to recruit more experienced
candidates over young people, as they are looking for
someone who can ‘hit the ground running’, that is, is
immediately operational and productive. Young people lack
the experience of the workplace and the job-specific skills
that employers ask for and as such constitute a ‘risk’, as
employers worry about the level of training and support they
need to provide (see CIPD 2012c).
Overall, employers’ recruitment and selection processes
reflect an aversion to ‘risk’, and this can result in an
‘unconscious bias’ which disadvantages young people.
This is particularly the case in times of recession, but this
behaviour is also symptomatic of a lack of a strategic and
long-term approach to skills needs and workforce investment
(CIPD 2012c). Often this behaviour can also be linked to
an inability to assess the skills, talent and commitment of
a candidate who has no previous experience and therefore
struggles to demonstrate their ‘employability’, something we
will look at in more detail later in this report.
Karina Rook is the HR director at Canterbury College and in
her experience employers don’t recruit young people for two
reasons: first, because they perceive young people as difficult,
and second, because managers don’t know how to engage
with young people, even if they do want to recruit them.
Canterbury College both trains and employs apprentices, and
so Karina has experienced the recruitment process from both
a provider as well as an employer’s view.
Another issue is employer expectations. A majority of employers
in our Learning to Work survey (CIPD 2012b) have told us that
young people lack an insight into the working world. This
is definitely the case, as we will see a bit later in this report;
however, there is also some indication that employer expectations
are often unrealistic when it comes to young people.
Eloise Grant from the Pertemps People Development Group
(PPDG), which works with Jobcentre Plus to get young
people into employment, confirms that employers often have
unrealistic expectations when it comes to young people:
‘Employers often don’t have any patience; they want to have
the final product, ready to work.’ Dominic Gill, Apprenticeships
Manager at Microsoft, which works with four training providers
to deliver large-scale apprenticeships programmes to 32,000
Microsoft partners across the UK, also explains that some
employers are sometimes too picky, waiting for the perfect
candidate rather than recruiting someone who has the required
skills and attitude and who they can train up to do the job.
As we will see later in this report, employers are often
disappointed with young people during the recruitment
process, in particular when it comes to preparation and
presentation in the application and interview stage.
1 YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE
• Young people are disadvantaged in today’s labour market, with employers preferring to recruit more experienced workers.
Line managers have been identified as a particular barrier in taking on young people.
• Many employers don’t recruit young people because they worry about the level of investment they need to provide.
• There are substantial differences across sectors and sizes when it comes to how many young people organisations recruit and
what roles they offer.
• There is an untapped potential for job opportunities for young people, especially in the high-growth, high-skilled occupations.
• Both employers and young people have unrealistic expectations about what they can offer each other.
9EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
LINE MANAGERS AS A BARRIER TO YOUTH
Line managers often play a central role in the recruitment
process. Indeed over half (56%) of the respondents to a
recent survey of recruitment trends by XpertHR reported that
responsibility for recruiting new staff in their organisation lies
principally with line managers (Suff 2012a). But while line
managers are key decision-makers when it comes to hiring
young people, they often need the most convincing in terms
of choosing to take on a young person instead of a more
Our review of the literature in this area has found a significant
gap in the evidence around the quality of advice given to line
managers involved in the recruitment and selection process;
for example, what they need to consider when interviewing a
young person, examples of best practices and other ways to
tailor recruitment processes. Looking at current training trends
for line managers in recruitment and selection, the statistics show
that a lot more needs to be done in this area: at the moment
fewer than one in ten (5%) organisations provide training or
development for those involved in recruiting (Suff 2012a). This
also came out very strongly in our employer case studies, as we
will see in more detail in this report later on; those employers that
successfully engaged with young people provided substantial
support and guidance to their line managers.
WHERE DO AND DON’T YOUNG PEOPLE
Although employers can rightly be described as ‘gate-keepers’
controlling access to jobs, deciding who gains employment
and who doesn’t as a result of their selection criteria (Hasluck
1998), this does not accurately reflect the full picture. There
is also a macroeconomic, structural reason why young people
find labour market entry more difficult. Increased globalisation
and technological change mean that many of the entry-
level positions – including office assistants, administrative or
sales assistants and customer service executives – have now
disappeared (see CIPD April 2012d). The structure of the
economy is changing, with fewer sales and elementary roles as
well as mid-skill occupations, and a greater number of positions
in high-skill, managerial and professional occupations (UKCES
2013). Post-recession we have also seen an increase in part-
time, temporary and self-employed work (CIPD 2012).
There are therefore significant differences across sectors in
terms of the opportunities for young people. Professional
services businesses, particularly in the banking sector, have
now moved many of their entry-level jobs abroad and are
choosing to focus their UK operations on the more high-
skilled, professional, high value-added occupations. Standard
Chartered, for example, a global business operating in 71
countries, does not recruit many young people in the UK.
Instead their CEO is passionate about encouraging volunteering
with young people as an important part of the organisation’s
CSR strategy and under their ‘Here for Good’ banner. But
Standard Chartered have actually only 10–12 graduates in the
UK, compared with 600 globally. ‘The small number of entry-
level positions in the UK is due to the way in which our business
is structured,’ explains Vanessa Paul, Talent and Acquisition
Specialist at Standard Chartered. Vanessa looks after the
organisation’s graduate programmes for the UK, US and Brazil
but also leads Standard Chartered involvement with a number
of youth charities in the UK and their work experience and
This is something that has come out strongly in our employer
interviews: companies operating in the professional services
and financial space often don’t actually recruit vast numbers
of young people, but are committed to helping young
people through their CSR activity. This often takes the form
of offering work experience placements and working with
schools and local youth charities, as well as running skills
academies and other employability initiatives. This seems to
imply an understanding about the important role employers
play in school-to-work transition, but at the same time the
business case for a shift in recruitment activity towards workers
without extensive experience has yet to be fully integrated into
internal hiring processes. Or if the business case is understood,
perhaps organisations are still struggling to see how they could
restructure their job opportunities to offer more access routes
to young people. Indeed, this is confirmed by survey data
collected by the UKCES: financial services and the health sector
stand out as being two of the most likely to recruit 19–24-year-
olds, but the least likely to recruit 16–18-year-olds. High-skilled
sectors, such as professional services, are least likely to recruit
young people and if they do so there is a strong bias towards
graduates (UKCES 2013). However, there are some exceptions,
such as RBS’s Early Careers Programme, which the bank has
developed to achieve a strategic approach towards recruiting
young people, or Barclays’ new apprenticeships and school-
TOO YOUNG TO WORK HERE?
‘At the moment we only recruit a small number of young people – all of them university graduates – into business analyst
positions. This is because our business is highly specialised and needs experienced professionals.’ Alan MacKinnon,
‘Our industry rarely employs very young people; we think they are not professional enough, but that’s not true.’
Marc Anderson-Boyd, Managing Director, Taylor Nash-Recruitment
‘In the health sector we have a particular issue with perceptions of where young people can and can’t work. It’s a myth that
16–18-year-olds can’t work in patient care and something we are actively trying to challenge.’
Liz Eddy, Head of Skills, NHS Employers
10 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
The sectors that are more likely to take on a young person are
the hospitality and retail sectors: ‘Young people are an essential
part of the hospitality sector; they are our “lifeblood”. Hospitality
offers young people good progression opportunities and a
clear, structured career path,’ says Liz McGivern, VP of HR, Red
Carnation Hotels, explaining that this is helped by the fact that
many of their senior managers started out in entry-level roles and
worked their way up, which she argues helps them ‘understand
the challenges young people face’. This is confirmed by Jennifer
Lee, HR director at Jurys Inn, who describes the various activities
Jurys Inn carries out to engage with young people, saying: ‘our
young employees are important to us.’
But it is not just the sector that matters when it comes to
youth employment; there is also an issue around the size of the
organisation, with larger companies being more likely to recruit
young people than smaller (UKCES 2013).
WHICH ROLES DO THEY WORK IN?
In a recent poll of CIPD members, over 50% of HR professionals
reported that they thought they did not have enough routes for
young people into their organisation (such as apprenticeship
schemes, graduate schemes, school-leavers programmes, work
This belief is confirmed by our Learning
to Work survey (CIPD 2012b), where employers stated they
needed to offer more routes into work for non-graduates.
Overall, the most prevalent way to bring young people into
organisations is graduate schemes, although many employers
are now either thinking of offering, or starting to offer,
apprenticeships and places on school-leaver programmes.
Again, there are differences across sectors and size in terms
of which organisations are offering what type of access route.
According to data collected by the UKCES, about half of all
large employers are offering apprenticeships compared with
only 5% or 4% for the smaller employers (UKCES 2013).
Similarly, the same differences across sectors are noted again:
education, health and social work, and construction are the
most likely to offer apprenticeships, with financial services the
least likely (only 4%). Some organisations, such as the National
Grid, have been offering apprenticeships for a long time (in the
case of the National Grid, 19 years) and those organisations
that usually recruit a large number of young people, such as
Whitbread, tend to offer a large number of apprenticeships too
(Whitbread have a target of 500 apprenticeships this year).
WHAT ARE YOUNG PEOPLE’S EXPECTATIONS
Young people have different expectations of work, which may
contribute to the perceived disconnect between young people
and employers: young people are mobile and more likely to
want a job that offers them some sort of meaning and a better
work–life balance. Because of the pressure young jobseekers
are under to find a job, this is sometimes an issue:
‘With the young jobseeker I’ve mentored I found that his
parents were nagging him a lot about finding a job so he can
start earning money, but he doesn’t want to just have a job,
he wants to start a career in an area that is relevant to his skills
and interests,’ explains Sandra, CIPD member and Steps Ahead
However, sometimes the opposite is true too, with young
people taking a rather short-sighted approach to the career
opportunities available. For example, some young people don’t
take up apprenticeship opportunities even if those are with big
employers and could potentially lead to a promising career in that
organisation, just because they don’t want to make that short-
term investment of lower wages and prefer to take a job that
pays them more money immediately. ‘It’s frustrating,’ explains
one official working on the National Apprenticeships online
vacancy matching system, which offers hundreds of opportunities
to young people but yet has up to 800 unmatched vacancies
per week; ‘we can see the great career opportunities an
apprenticeship with, for example, Coca-Cola can offer, but some
young people would turn this down because they are fixated on
the low pay to start with. Instead they’d rather get a job without
any progression that pays better.’
There is also an issue with unrealistic expectations when it
comes to job prospects. Although we found no evidence of the
common perception that ‘all young people these days want to be
A response rate of 70 CIPD members, CIPD survey March 2013.
RECRUITMENT AGENCIES AND YOUNG PEOPLE
Employers are not the only ‘gate-keepers’ controlling access to jobs; recruitment agencies also have a key role to play.
Most employers see recruitment agencies as a very effective recruitment channel, especially when filling vacancies at short
notice. By the very nature of the service they provide, recruitment agencies are promoting candidates that ‘can do the job’ -
rather than prioritising young jobseekers over all others. However, the recruitment industry has obviously recognised youth
employment as an important issue, even if some may not yet be aware of the significant role they can play in tackling this
in their conversations with clients. ‘Recruitment agencies are at the front line of the labour market and thus have in-depth
knowledge about job vacancies and skills shortages issues. We are working with our members to highlight the role they can
play in driving good recruitment and tackling youth unemployment.’ Kate Shoesmith, Head of Policy and Public Affairs
at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC)
To do this, the confederation has for example developed a Youth Employment Charter:
11EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
on the X Factor’, the charity Education and Employers Taskforce
recently carried out an important study that shows that there is
a misalignment between career aspirations of young people and
labour market demand. The research, with young people between
the ages of 13 and 18, found that their ambitions relating to
where they want to work were extremely limited and did not
match current job opportunities and areas of future jobs growth.
Furthermore, their ambitions were very narrow, with a majority
of young people saying they wanted to work in just three of the
twenty-five occupational categories. This, the study states, has
serious implications for school-to-work transitions:
‘If young people are pursuing unrealistic ambitions as teenagers
(and only one in ten of those young people interested in
careers in culture, media and sports are likely ultimately to be
successful), risks are high that they will pursue educational
journeys which may ultimately lead them to struggle to find
relevant work after leaving school, college or university’
(Mann et al 2013, p9).
As a result some employers struggle to attract young people,
while others are overwhelmed with applications and need
to manage expectations: ‘Our challenge is to show that the
industry isn’t so glamorous. We need to manage expectations
of our applicants,’ says Catherine Schleiben, Head of
HR professionals taking part in our Steps Ahead mentoring
programme also reported that young people sometimes expect
that if they have a degree they will find a job easily: ‘With some of
the people I mentor I found that their expectations didn’t match
the reality. They thought, I’ve got a degree, I’m going to get a job
easily. But this is not how it works anymore in the real world, is it?’
(Lisa, CIPD member and Steps Ahead mentor, Leicester).
Furthermore, young people also tend to move from job to
job more frequently than their older counterparts and so are
more flexible and more easily persuaded to move between
organisations. Given that young people are, by definition,
starting out on their careers, they are keen to access advice
and gain experience. That is why employers who use social
media to offer advice and guidance to young people and as a
way of attracting them to the organisation in general are more
successful in recruiting younger applicants than others.
• How can we support employers and line managers in particular to look beyond a candidate’s experience at their ability,
skills and motivation?
• How can we support employers to design and run more access routes for young people, such as apprenticeships, in high-
skill, high-growth sectors?
• How can we help young people to have an informed, realistic understanding about where career opportunities are?
12 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
WHERE AND HOW EMPLOYERS ADVERTISE
Most employers generally use a number of formal and
informal channels to advertise their job opportunities.
Formal mechanisms include: the organisation’s website,
Jobcentre Plus, recruitment agencies, adverts in the local
and national press, social media and online job boards.
Informal recruitment methods include: recommendations
from existing employees (referral schemes), word of mouth,
vacancy boards, intranet and internal newsletter and using
databases of former employees.
The CIPD Resourcing and Talent Planning annual survey
report 2012, published in partnership with Hays, found
that the most effective methods to attract applicants were
reported to be the organisation’s own corporate website
and recruitment agencies (CIPD 2012a). However, the most
relied-upon methods of recruiting were found by the UKCES
to be word of mouth and referrals (UKCES 2013).
Unsurprisingly, there are also important differences when
it comes to organisations’ size as to where they advertise.
Small businesses tend to favour recruiting via word of mouth
as it offers an effective cost-saving strategy. In addition,
organisations employing ten or fewer people are more
likely to use an informal and unstructured approach to
recruitment, due to their lack of a designated individual or
specific HR function to oversee the recruitment and selection
process (Bartram et al 1995).
We have asked employers in our interviews how they
advertise their opportunities to young people. Most reported
to use at least one, or a combination, of the following:
• corporate website
• online job boards
• local paper
• radio adverts
• the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
• school visits and university career fairs
• Jobcentre Plus
• youth charities (the Prince’s Trust, Springboard, and so on)
• trade publications
• graduate websites
• non-graduate websites (notgoingtouniversity.com)
• recruitment agencies
• social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,
and so on).
Again, the most popular way of advertising job and other
opportunities was by far the organisation’s own website,
followed by online job boards, the National Apprenticeship
Service (NAS), Jobcentre Plus, graduate websites as well as
social media. The online matching service of the National
Apprenticeship Service (NAS) is particularly popular amongst
employers that offer apprenticeships. Indeed, in particular, big
brand employers such as Boots and Siemens said the matching
service worked very well for them: ‘We have only once used
other external routes; we don’t need to, as we have a strong
brand name; this is why the NAS website works well,’ says
Martin Hottass, Manager, Skills and Learning Governance at
Siemens. But also smaller companies such as WR Refrigeration
used the NAS website to access young people in their local
More traditional means, such as local press and the evening
paper, is something some employers said they use more to
recruit young people onto their schemes as they found that
parents would find adverts in the local paper and pass them on
to their children. Capgemini says this has helped them to access
a more diverse pool of talent. Boots explained they run features
in the local paper during specific times of the year, for example
when exam results come out.
2 HOW EMPLOYERS RECRUIT
• Most employers use a mixture of channels to advertise their opportunities, but informal methods are very popular.
• Employers de-select young people according to their qualifications and grades but emphasise the value of soft skills,
motivation, attitude and behaviour in their selection criteria.
• Interviews are a popular selection method, yet they are problematic for assessing young people with no previous experience.
• Assessment centres that assess a candidate’s ability are potentially more ‘youth-friendly’ but they require more employer
• Employers’ views on young people going through the recruitment process are fairly negative, with preparation, presentation,
confidence and the ability to ‘sell’ themselves being an issue.
13EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
When it comes to advertising job opportunities with Jobcentre
Plus (JCP), the employers we talked to had mixed views: some had
a very good relationship – this is, for example, the case of Jurys
Inn – others do not use the Jobcentre other than for very specific
programmes; and then there are those that are not happy with
the relationship. We asked Jobcentre Plus advisers in our mini-
survey how they would describe their relationship with employers
and they were relatively positive, with 56% of respondents saying
either good or very good and only one out of ten describing their
relationship as poor or very poor.3
But clearly there is room for
improvement, when we asked JCP advisers how they thought
their relationship with employers could be improved, they said they
would like to see greater employer interest and commitment to
working with JCP and more time to engage with employers.
In terms of how employers advertise to young people, many
recognised that this is still an issue: ‘a lot of employers don’t
write their job adverts in a way that is appealing to young
people’ (for example the wording they use and the colours)
as someone said in our employer focus group in Birmingham.
This is also something that officials working on the National
Apprenticeship Service online vacancy service have reported as a
bit of an issue, especially when it comes to targeting very young
candidates, that is, 16–18, employers seem to struggle with the
‘youth appeal’ of their adverts.
HOW EMPLOYERS SELECT CANDIDATES
‘I’ve worked with a big supermarket chain, doing mock interviews.
But you know, they claim they want to attract young people but
they have a five-stage vetting process just for a store assistant.
After that there is an eight-week pre-employment training. They
put so many hurdles in place’ (Eloise Grant, PPDG, Birmingham).
Most organisations we’ve talked to have a selection procedure
with up to five stages to recruit young people. The first stage is
usually either a CV with a cover letter or some sort of an online
questionnaire or form, followed by a test or a phone interview
and then assessment centres and/or one-to-one interviews.
APPLICATIONS AND SELECTION CRITERIA
Our literature review also showed that the most common method
of application requested by employers is an electronic application
form, offered by three out of four employers (Suff 2012a). Sending
a CV or letter of application are two further application methods
favoured by employers (Suff 2012a). Once employers have
received an application, the first screening is based on a number
of judgements. Immediate rejection can be a result of: missing
information, failure to meet essential criteria, lack of experience or
poor presentation. In our interviews we found the most important
selection criteria for the majority of employers to be young people’s
grades. Most linked their first screening criteria to a minimum
standard in qualifications, so UCAS points, GCSE in Maths and
English (above C), A-levels (above C).
Crucially, when we asked employers what they are looking for
in particular, they talked about recruiting for attitude and values
and looking for the ‘right fit’. As Marcus Lee at Santander
emphasised, recruiting according to their values is very important
now: ‘we need people committed to a high level of integrity’,
saying they look for candidates with great service skills, and an
inquisitive nature and the right values. Both M&S and Jurys Inn run
a ‘behaviour-based’ recruitment process with the aim to identify
motivation, commitment and passion, rather than technical
skill and educational attainment and previous work experience.
Developing the recruitment in line with their values has also
helped Jurys Inn to better engage with their younger candidates,
as Jennifer Lee explains: ‘It makes it easier for young people, if we
use a different language. We now have a conversation about our
values rather than their qualifications.’
This is a contradiction that we have also encountered in
our review of the literature: employers asking for ‘soft skills’
but de-selecting young people on their hard skills. What is
apparent then is that employers value personality, attitude or
personal experience more highly than vocational or academic
qualifications, which rarely lead to de-selection, but only once an
individual finds themselves at the interview stage.
There is also a difference between the skills and attributes sought
by employers depending on the size of the organisation, with
SMEs placing greater emphasis on previous work experience than
larger employers and larger employers placing more emphasis on
qualifications (UKCES 2010). Above all, the literature suggests that
achieving the ‘right fit’ when hiring a new employee is the central
concern for employers large and small, and in the majority of
sectors (Tunstall et al 2012).
We can question whether these early selection procedures based
on grades are always the best way to select candidates; however,
most employers report that due to the volume of applications they
receive, they need to use some sort of selection criteria and using
grades and qualifications seems fairer than other mechanisms:
‘We do sift by academic grades because this is the only way we
can deal fairly with the volume of applications. We get 3,000
applications for 250 jobs, so we need to de-select somehow and
we are very clear about what our criteria are,’ explains Martin
Hottass, Manager, Skills and Learning Governance at Siemens.
Some employers also ask candidates to complete an online test
before they can submit an application; this is for instance the case
at M&S, where potential applicants sit an interactive ‘job preview’
test, intended to give them a frank and realistic look at what a
job at M&S (particularly in-store) is really like. The test is multiple-
choice and online. Once the test is completed, the individual is
presented with their result – either ‘yes – please go on and apply’
or a ‘perhaps you should consider reapplying sometime in the
future’ message. The idea is that candidates who are unlikely
to pass through the process successfully are filtered out, which
prevents time-wastage on both the employer and the candidate’s
parts. Those who complete this stage are asked to complete an
application form and upload a CV.
Five questions about recruitment and young people with 91 responses.
14 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
Interviews are the most widely used of all selection methods
(Suff 2010b), although as we will see below, assessment
centres are becoming very popular, especially when it comes
to recruiting very young people. Interviews are probably
the one stage in the recruitment process that is most likely
to disadvantage young people, although this depends very
much on how the interview is conducted. Traditionally, many
employers favoured a competency-based approach where the
candidate is asked to demonstrate their ability to carry out the
task required by the job based on previous experience. Previous
work experience is something which most young people don’t
have and also find difficult to gain, as we will see further below
in this report. A survey carried out by the Federation of Small
Businesses (FSB) found that only 7% of participants were ‘quite
confident’ that school-leavers were prepared for the world
of work; while 48% were said to be ‘not at all confident’
(Federation of Small Businesses 2012).
Most employers have told us that the interview stage is where
young candidates often fall down. A number one complaint is
that they haven’t researched the company, that they don’t show
enough interest – for example, say that they are not sure they
want a career in IT when interviewing for an IT company or that
they can’t explain why they want the job and how their skills
and experiences relate to the job profile.
Some of the employers we spoke to have therefore changed
their interview techniques from a competency-based approach
to an approach based on ability or strength. Matt Stripe, Group
HR Director at Nestlé UK and Ireland, believes this method
offers a ‘much fairer way’ to test candidates ‘who have great
potential and talent but no experience to lean on in traditional
interview scenarios’ (Stripe 2013). We will see below how
Nestlé has changed its approach to recruiting young people and
how this has helped the organisation to get the right people
and fill their vacancies.
Contrary to the traditional interview setting, assessment centres
tend to select candidates according to their ability, including
the ability to interact with others. Assessment centres are an
increasingly popular way to select young candidates; according
to a graduate recruitment and selection survey, over half of the
employers reported using assessment centres (Suff 2010b). This
is confirmed by our research with employers, where a majority
of the people we spoke to use this method. Generally speaking,
the larger the company, the more likely it is that they will use
assessment centres (see Leeds Metropolitan University Student
Hub, online workbook 2013). Typically, between 6 and 20
candidates are invited to each session, with approximately 12 in
each selection group, and the assessment is usually carried out
over the course of a day. Assessment centres usually take place
after the first round of interviews but before final selection –
however, they can also be used as an initial selection process
(see the Prospects website, Prospects.ac.uk 2013).
A report by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
recently suggested that assessment centres provide a
particularly good way of assessing soft skills as they are
intended to effectively replicate the tasks and demands of the
job for which the candidate is applying (Newton et al 2005).
Assessment centres aim to measure a number of different
dimensions of a candidate’s ability (Leeds Metropolitan
University Student Hub online workbook 2013), including
intelligence and problem-solving, social skills, management skills
and personal characteristics.
Assessment centres require a lot of employer investment, but
the employers we spoke to confirm the DWP’s research, saying
that assessment centres help them to select the right candidate
and – particularly when it comes to young people – they allow
them to judge abilities instead of experience. This is for instance
the case for Veolia, who recruit all their apprentices through
assessment centres and find this a very successful way of bringing
in young people. Candidates participate in group work and their
behaviours and capabilities are observed. Boots, who also run
assessment centres to recruit apprentices, ask them to do three
different exercises; their centre is very interactive and includes
stall visits and group interviews. ‘Our assessors come from
different areas around the business, including HR, commercial
and supply chain,’ explains Donna Browne. ‘We prepare briefings
for the assessors as to how to get the most out of your young
candidates.’ Similarly, Siemens run assessment centres that
include role-play and other group activities.
Providing unsuccessful candidates with constructive, or in some
cases any, feedback is something all employers struggle with
– and not just with regards to employing young people. An
experiment conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)
which addressed the issue of candidate feedback concluded that
INTERVIEWING YOUNG PEOPLE
‘The biggest challenge is what questions do you ask young people? I think we all need educating on that. I have worked in
recruitment for 20 years but I still struggle.’ Phillipa Hart, Hart Recruitment
‘Interviewing young people with virtually the same educational background and little life experience is difficult. This is why we
make our interviewing interactive and more practical.’ Martin Hottass, Manager, Skills and Learning Governance at Siemens
‘It’s difficult with young people; often they don’t have the confidence so they don’t come across that well in an interview setting.’
Marcus Lee, HR Director, Santander
15EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
‘no feedback is the norm’. The study found that the majority
(seven out of ten) of the strong fictitious applications they sent to
employers received no response of any kind. In those instances
where employers did provide feedback, it was mainly delivered
by email rather than phone (Tunstall et al 2012). Aside from
this study by the JRF, there is very little information available
about the amount, format and content of feedback supplied to
candidates in the recruitment and selection process.
Almost all of the employers we spoke to recognise this as
an issue. The main problem with providing feedback is the
volume (and sometimes often also the quality and relevance) of
applications most employers receive, especially in the first stage
of the selection process. ‘We cannot respond to every candidate
who applies, but we provide feedback later in the process when
we have smaller numbers,’ says Anouska Ramsay at Capgemini.
‘We are keenly aware of the importance of feedback, not
only in the application process but beyond. This is why we are
holding a session with our apprentices to see how well they
have been communicated and engaged with.’
EMPLOYERS’ VIEWS OF YOUNG PEOPLE
DURING THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS
We asked employers what they see, in their recruitment activity,
as the main challenges young people face. This included things
they thought young people could improve on to enhance
their employability, but also what, from their point of view,
disadvantages young people in the labour market.
The key issues emerging are a lack of understanding amongst
young people about employer expectations and how to market
themselves, but also more specific issues around poor preparation,
communication and presentation and a lack of knowledge as to
why they want to work there and a lack of confidence.
More specifically, employers mentioned to us the following issues:
• young people unable to ‘sell themselves’ positively and in an
• often not reading or understanding eligibility criteria for the job
• difficulties in scheduling phone interviews with candidates –
not turning up, or unable to speak during the day
• lack of confidence
• general understanding of expectations – punctuality, what to
wear, how to present themselves, interaction
• disappointed about difficulties young people encounter in
offering real-life examples of their skills to show suitability
• young people’s expectations: some expect to ‘just walk into
their dream job’
• poor written communication, for example emails written in
text-speak, not enough time spent on application forms
• young people seeming ‘blasé’ or not interested/motivated in
• young people find it difficult to translate educational/
personal experience into workplace scenarios without
• young people struggle with the recruitment process
in general; what’s expected of them – for example
presentations, describing why you want the job, talking
• often unable to ‘see the next step’ – they seem to take
things at face value and aren’t able to see the bigger picture
• answers on application form are formulaic; they don’t show
• candidates don’t know how to make themselves stand out
• lack of clarity around what they’re applying for
• little knowledge of basic work behaviour and etiquette
• they can be intimidated by a corporate environment
• poor knowledge of organisations they apply for; they don’t
research the company
• young people find it difficult to demonstrate their skills and
experience when asked in an interview situation
• young people unable to ‘sell’ themselves on their CV – very
descriptive; not necessarily best demonstration of what was
gained from each experience
• unable to answer why they want the job and what they
want to do
• not able to think beyond the immediate opportunity to their
career pathways and futures.
EMPLOYER FEEDBACK TO APPLICATIONS AND VOLUME
Asda receive over 1 million applications per year for around 28,000 jobs. Candidates received regular updates on the status of
their application and those who go through to the assessment centre and interview stage can ask for specific feedback on their
strengths and weaknesses.
ITV also has a very high volume of applicants, which means they find it difficult to provide meaningful, tailored feedback.
Candidates who are interviewed over the phone receive follow-up feedback. Those who attend assessment centres are invited
to speak to a person about how they did.
Nestlé provides feedback to all candidates via an automated response saying an application has not been successful. If
candidates took part in the assessment centre they will receive personal feedback around why they were unsuccessful.
National Grid received 10,000 applications for 70 apprenticeship places last year. The organisation thus struggles with
feedback but does provide in-depth feedback to those who have been unsuccessful at assessment centre – they are offered
30–40 minutes with their assessor.
16 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
• How can employers better promote their opportunities to young people?
• How can recruitment processes and selection criteria be adapted to be more youth-friendly?
• How can we get the most out of young candidates at the interview stage?
• How can we up-skill young people with regards to employer expectations during the recruitment process?
17EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
YOUNG PEOPLE’S OVERALL EXPERIENCE
OF LOOKING FOR WORK
Overall, looking for work is, unsurprisingly, for most young
people a fairly frustrating and sometimes demotivating
experience. The young jobseekers we asked in our focus
groups about their experience of job search said that it made
them ‘feel down’ and ‘not very confident’. Job search from
their experience is characterised by:
• endless forms to complete
• no response to applications they had made
• no feedback from employers
• no support from anyone
• employers constantly asking for ‘experience’
• low morale
• competition from more experienced workers.
Many also felt ‘let down’ and ‘short-changed’ by the
education system. This was for instance the case for one of
the young Young Ambassadors from the Prince’s Trust, who
had a degree in international politics: ‘I went to university and
got a degree, I’m 27k in debt now, but I don’t have a job. To
be honest, I feel let down by the lack of support.’
Others also explained to us how they lost confidence and how
this has affected their career:
‘I’ve got a degree in design and technology. I want to work
in web design and graphic design. But after graduating I just
couldn’t find a job in the sector, so I lost my confidence and
I eventually gave up. For the past three years I worked in a
warehouse, the manual labour was tough but at least I had a
job’ (Vijay, Steps Ahead mentee, Northampton).
Looking for work seems like a full-time job in itself for many
‘I spend all my time looking for work. I get up in the morning
and start my job search. There are so many repetitive forms to fill
in, they take a long time’ (Matt, Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester).
Above all, though, young people have told us about the lack
of support available for them. They often feel that once they
have left the education system, there is nowhere they feel
they can turn to for advice and guidance. In one case, one of
the young jobseekers – who was not eligible for Jobseekers
Allowance as he had personal savings from working abroad –
only went to JCP to get some career advice. He felt that this
was the only place he could turn to for help:
‘JCP advisers were surprised to see me as I’m not eligible for
Jobseekers Allowance. I told them that I had come to get advice
for my job search; there is nowhere else where I can go’ (Matt,
young jobseeker and Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester).
To get a more rounded picture, we also asked our mentors
from the CIPD Steps Ahead programme – which matches HR
professionals with young jobseekers – what they thought
about their mentees’ experience of accessing the labour
market. They told us the key challenges young people face in
their transition from education into work are about the basics:
3 YOUNG PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCES
OF LOOKING FOR WORK AND
• Young people’s experience of the jobs search process is often a frustrating and demotivating experience, with perceived lack
• Young people struggle with where to look for jobs, how to apply and how to ‘market’ themselves to potential employers.
• Lack of constructive employer feedback is a key issue, affecting young people’s confidence and chances to improve.
• Young people struggle with accessing work experience and lack of networks and contacts that would allow them to find out
• Careers advice and guidance at schools is not sufficiently informing young people about career pathways and job
opportunities, with negative consequences for the education-to-work transition, especially for those from more
• There is an issue of young people not accessing guidance when they can as they don’t seem as important before they enter
the labour market.
• Recruitment processes are unclear to young people and so are employer expectations during selection stages.
18 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
• how to look for a job
• how to apply for a vacancy
• how to perform during the interview stage.
Furthermore, our mentors told us that young people don’t
understand what employers expect from them during the
different stages, especially when it comes to issues such as
presentation and attitude. More specifically, they also told us
that they saw young people struggling with some of the issues
in Table 1.
Finally, we also asked Jobcentre Plus advisers about the
three main challenges they saw young people facing in the
recruitment process. They identified these as:
• presenting themselves to potential employers
• interviewing skills
• searching for jobs effectively.
They also told us that only 5% of young people they saw
reported their experience of the recruitment process as good,
with a majority reporting that young people’s experience was
either poor or very poor.4
YOUNG PEOPLE’S UNDERSTANDING OF JOB
Part of the reason why young people struggle so much in their
job search has also to do with their lack of knowledge about
the opportunities that are available. We have already mentioned
at the beginning of this report the research findings around
young people’s limited ambitions when it comes to where they
want to work. How the lack of understanding about career
pathways, job opportunities available and different sectors and
occupations can negatively affect young people’s education-to-
work transition came out very strongly in our focus groups:
‘The biggest problem I’ve seen is that they don’t have the
faintest idea about what they want to do. They haven’t got a
clue about the different opportunities out there, and even if
they did, nobody has told them what they need to do to get
there; there isn’t an understanding about career pathways’
(CIPD member and Steps Ahead volunteer mentor, Leicester).
This then often leads to young people not thinking strategically
about their education choices or even exploring their options:
‘My mentee had studied philosophy at university. I asked him
why and he said because he thought he could pass it. But he
had no idea what he wanted to do. His parents just wanted him
to get a job; there was no understanding about the skills he
had gained independently of the subject matter. I had to drag
this out of him’ (Lisa, CIPD member and volunteer Steps Ahead
We’ve asked young people about the careers advice and guidance
they received at school (see box opposite). The advice they received
was often non-existent and at best patchy. We also asked mentors
Mini-survey of JCP advisers, 91 responses, carried out March 2013.
Table 1: The mentors’ view: issues that young people struggle with
Job search Applications Employer expectations
pressure from parents to find
no knowledge about how
to read adverts, interpret
job descriptions and people
no knowledge about what to
expect during an interview and
how to excel
lack in confidence
lack of knowledge about what
it is they want to do for a
lack of knowledge of writing a
good CV and application form
no understanding about how
to sell themselves through
their CV and at interview stage
pressure of debt and worries
about the future
a tunnel vision/closed view
about jobs and careers, for
example not knowing about the
variety of occupations available
no understanding of their
strengths and weaknesses,
and how to apply those to the
lack of awareness about the
importance of presentation
and dressing the part at the
self-esteem and morale issues,
for example they don’t feel
worthy of employment
no advice and guidance about
career pathways and job
no understanding of how
to ‘market’ their skills and
lack of awareness about how
important it is to research your
frustrated with the gap
between the jobs available and
their qualifications to achieve
their desired job
lack of potential employer
contacts and networks
a scatter-gun approach instead
of tailored application
not knowing what is expected
of them during the different
a vicious circle of being pressured
to apply for any jobs via JCP, but
even lower confidence if they
don’t get them
not knowing about support
services available or not using
them, such as career advisers
and careers fairs at university
no understanding of how they
can make their application
no understanding about how
competitive the process is
lack of support
19EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
about what they thought about what their mentees knew about
the options available and got similar feedback:
‘With all of my mentees I found that when they had received
advice it was very limited and unsupportive of the young
person’s ambitions; they seemed unwilling to explore what
young people wished to do’ (Chris, CIPD member and volunteer
mentor for Steps Ahead, Leicester).
With career advice and guidance in schools being limited,
most young people get their career insights from their family
‘I don’t remember getting any advice from anyone. The only advice
I got was from my father’ (Gulcin, Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester).
This is a problem because it limits young people in terms of
understanding about their options. This is particularly an issue
for children from a lower income background, as Neil Morrison,
HR director at Random House, with a particular passion for
this agenda, explains: ‘We need a better understanding about
the opportunities that are available – middle-class children are
better off when it comes to information, advice and guidance
through their parents, but what about the rest? What about
those whose relatives aren’t engineers, publishers or doctors?’
Though sometimes, young people are not accessing the support
available to them when they can; perhaps this is because they
don’t know how important this is until they find themselves in the
labour market. One of our mentors from Steps Ahead explained
that her mentee, a young jobseeker in Northampton, had never
heard of recruitment fairs that were held by his university. She said
she found it ‘alarming’ that young people aren’t aware of help and
support that is available during and after graduating:
‘I’ve asked my mentee about the career guidance at his
university. He said he’d never heard of any. The first thing I did
at the beginning of our mentoring relationship was send him
off to a careers fair in Northampton. I think it’s also alarming
that they don’t know about careers websites during their time
at university’ (Sandra, CIPD member and volunteer mentor for
Steps Ahead, Northampton).
There is definitely more support at universities, but it comes
back to the question of who is accessing the support. For
example, at Regent’s University, the Careers and Business
Relations Department sees making students aware of
employers’ expectations as a crucial part of their work – as
well as providing students with access to careers advisers
and coaches. The university regularly hosts workshops
where businesses are invited to speak to students about
what skills, experience and attitudes they’re looking for in
young applicants. The university also provides tutorials aimed
specifically at improving students’ overall employability, as well
as sessions designed to boost young people’s ability to secure
employment upon leaving the university – for example, LinkedIn
and job search workshops.
‘It’s an important part of our job to prepare students for what
business expects from young recruits entering the workforce.
Which is why we try to foster early engagement between
employers and students from the very start of their educational
journey,’ explains Matthias Feist, Head of Department, Careers and
Business Relations, Regent’s University.
What young people have told us though is that often they are not
aware of how much this matters until it is too late. For example,
one of our young jobseekers comments, ‘When I was studying I
spent all my time thinking about my degree and my dissertation.
I wish I had known then how important it is to prepare myself for
the labour market and get clued up about job search; if I’d known
what I know now I would have spent more time on that.’
Another issue that was raised is that in some cases the young
person knows what it is they want to do but doesn’t know what
they need to do to get there – again highlighting the absence
YOUNG PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCE OF CAREERS ADVICE AND GUIDANCE
‘We did have a careers adviser at school but only for the naughty kids. If you had done something wrong then you had to see
the careers adviser.’ Rose, Young Ambassador, Prince’s Trust
‘Yes, I remember we got some advice at school. They showed us a video about the workplace, about working in an office.’
Vijay, Steps Ahead mentee, Northampton
‘I don’t remember getting any advice in school. Nor do I remember any employers coming in to talk to us about jobs.’
Bennett, Young Ambassador, the Prince’s Trust
‘No, I didn’t get any advice on what to do, but I always loved gadgets, so I knew I wanted to do something with technology,
which is why I studied IT. I’m still looking for work though.’ Keith, Young Ambassador, Prince’s Trust
‘Careers advice in my school was shocking. They decided I should do hair dressing. I was told there wasn’t much else I could do. I
eventually went to university though and there was some support there.’ Abby, Steps Ahead mentee and media graduate
‘A Connexions career adviser came into school in year 10 – found advice helpful.’ Steps Ahead mentee
20 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
of solid information about career pathways at school. Nick, one
of the Young Ambassadors we spoke to in our focus group with
the Prince’s Trust, said he always knew that he preferred manual
labour and that he wanted to become a trades person, but it’s
just upon entering the labour market that he discovered that he
needed a specific card to be a certified construction worker.
What we also found is that most young people had received no
information on alternatives to university education and that the
choice on leaving school was university or work. This has been
confirmed by our recent research amongst employees in their
role and also as parents, that only 15% said they had received
information about apprenticeships.
The work of the Education and Employers Taskforce has well
documented and illustrated the benefits of employer contact
at school (see their research on NEETs and employer contact
demonstrating that those with more employer contact at school
are less likely to become NEET later on). Yet, most of the young
people we spoke to had not experienced any employer contact
at school. This is also confirmed by the research that shows
that only 15% of young adults recalled three or more employer
contacts through their schools or colleges (Mann 2012).
This further contributes to their lack of awareness around the
opportunities available, especially as the labour market becomes
more complex. This is something that Phillipa Hart, who runs
her own recruitment agency (Hart Recruitment), has seen as
negatively impacting on youth employment:
‘We have unfilled vacancies and opportunities for young
people, like apprenticeships. This should be in the news! Instead
all we ever hear about is how there are not opportunities for
young people. It’s depressing.’
Phillipa says she also often redirects young people looking
for jobs to training providers, an avenue most young people,
according to her, don’t know about.
YOUNG PEOPLE’S ACCESS TO JOBS
Most of the young people we talked to told us that they think
their lack of previous experience is their biggest barrier to
accessing employment. They feel that they are locked into a
vicious circle where employers are asking for experience but
wouldn’t help them to get this. This is not only the case with
our young jobseekers, but also other groups of young people
more generally. The group of students studying business studies
at Regent’s University, who we ran a focus group with, also
worried that they would not be employable without experience
relating to what they want to do. While most young people
understand the value of relevant work experience, they often
don’t know how to get it.
How important work experience is to labour market access is
confirmed by research carried out by the UKCES, which found
that a lack of work experience is the number one reason for
employers to turn down a young person (UKCES 2013). This
is a particular problem today as there is a decline in young
people having part-time jobs while in education (UKCES 2013).
This means that while more employers are asking for work
experience, fewer young people are actually acquiring this,
leading to a mismatch in the labour market.
As a result, young people find it even harder to compete with
older and more experienced workers: our literature review also
found that previous work experience can play an important
role in getting shortlisted for interviews (Newton et al 2005).
As seen above, in terms of the selection procedure, a young
person’s application is often subject to a first-stage formal
screening process, consisting of scoring against ‘set criteria’,
including work history (Tunstall et al 2012, p20). Many young
applicants might find themselves filtered out due to a lack of
previous experience. The victims of this ‘experience trap’ face
the additional problem that their lack of work experience also
means a lack of references to support their applications and
act as ‘an illustration of their employability’ (Atkinson and
Williamson 2003, quoted in Newton et al 2005).
Another issue that young people and mentors have raised
with us is their lack of networks and connections and how this
makes it often seem impossible to access the labour market.
When we talked to business students at Regent’s University,
the majority there also believed that it’s still ‘who you know’
which determines your overall success at finding a job. As one
participant said, ‘you will always have an advantage if you
have the right connections.’ Young people from lower socio-
economic backgrounds are obviously more disadvantaged by
the importance of connections.
Limited and unequal access to jobs is particularly the problem in
some industries, such as media or publishing:
CATCH 22: THE NO EXPERIENCE, NO JOB CYCLE
‘Most of the jobs that are advertised require some previous experience; there don’t seem to be any jobs for people like us,
without any work experience.’ Vijay, CIPD Steps Ahead mentee, Northampton
‘I’m now trying to get some work experience, as all the job descriptions I see want you to have experience. I’m not picky as to
where and what – I just want to put something on my CV.’ Gulcin, CIPD Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester
‘I think degrees need a more practical element to them, something that gives you work experience. I can see that my friends
who did sandwich studies did better at getting a job.’ Rose, Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador
21EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
‘I’m looking for jobs in the media sector, but it is really difficult,
even with having done work experience in this area. Only about
20% of the jobs are advertised, the jobs that you see are only the
tip of the iceberg; it’s all about contacts and inside knowledge,
which I don’t have yet’ (Abi, Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester).
Word-of-mouth recruitment is an issue connected to that, as
young people often don’t tend to have the necessary work
contacts to be included in this. And yet this route is a recruitment
practice that is used by more and more employers. Capgemini,
for example, say that their most popular route for apprenticeship
recruitment has been through the Employee Referral Scheme, with
80% of all apprenticeships being sourced that way. However, the
company is aware of the potential shortcomings of this way of
recruiting young people: ‘Opportunities can miss certain audiences
and the diversity of applicants is not so wide,’ explains Anouska
Ramsay, Head of Talent, Capgemini.
This is confirmed by research carried out by the UKCES that
shows that word-of-mouth recruitment is now the number one
way to recruit:
‘Young non-graduates are particularly dependent on informal
connections with employers, through friends or family, to secure
employment. Most young people haven’t had time to build these
social networks or don’t have the right contacts to start off with,
which puts them at a disadvantage in today’s labour market’
In smaller organisations, recruitment is often done via networks
‘When I joined the organisation there was no HR function.
Recruitment was largely done via networks and family. It’s been
a bit of a struggle to convince managers not to recruit via this
method, which seemed to be the easiest option for them,’ says
Sam Newman, Head of HR, WR Refrigeration.
Studies show that when vacancies are communicated by informal
mechanisms there is a tendency for that vacancy to only reach
similar people to those already in employment (Canny 2004,
quoted in Newton et al 2005, p48) thus acting as a barrier to
diversity and cutting off entire pools of talent. For young people,
therefore, employers’ reliance on these networks to recruit means
they are often not exposed to opportunities if and when they arise.
Although statistics show that for some young people, informal
recruitment works, a study by the JRF shows that for ‘weaker’
candidates who do not have access to these particular networks,
the Internet is the most successful method of finding work, not
word of mouth (Tunstall et al 2012).
YOUNG PEOPLE’S APPROACH TO JOB
SEARCH AND APPLYING FOR JOBS
As our mentors explained, many young people find themselves
under huge pressure to find a job, which does not help their
approach to job search, as one Steps Ahead mentor explains:
‘This impacts on their mental attitude; they panic and tell
themselves that they can’t find a job. They spend so much time
applying for jobs that there isn’t really enough time to gather
information about careers.’
Parents, Jobcentre Plus advisers and young people often push
themselves to apply for as many jobs as possible (they need
to apply for at least six jobs a week to qualify for Jobseekers
Allowance). As a result, young people often have a scatter-
gun approach to applying for jobs, which results in many
applications that aren’t tailored to the specific job advertised. As
we’ve seen above, this leads to employers receiving hundreds if
not thousands of applications that may not be relevant to their
vacancies, but this is also a problem for the young person, as it
further contributes to denting their confidence:
‘As a result of this not very effective approach to applying for jobs,
the young person lives in a world of constant knock-backs, with
devastating effects for their confidence and morale,’ explains Ian,
CIPD member and volunteer Steps Ahead mentor, Leicester.
Our mentors have worked with young jobseekers to explain to
them the benefits of a more tailored approach:
‘What I’ve explained to my mentee is that there is no point
in applying for “any old job”, even if that is what his parents
or the Jobcentre want. I know that as an employer you can’t
afford to waste the time to recruit someone who doesn’t
want to do the job. So you don’t’ (Sandra, CIPD member and
volunteer Steps Ahead mentor, Leicester).
Another issue related to this is that young people are often not
systematic in their approach. So while most young people feel like
they spend all their time looking for work, they often don’t use
their time very effectively, explains Ian, a Steps Ahead mentor: ‘I’ve
noticed with my mentees that they spend a lot of time thinking
about their job search, but they don’t have a structure; everything
is done quite randomly and without a process, which means that
the job search seems very overwhelming.’
In terms of where to look for jobs, this is also something young
people are struggling with – because they generally tend not
to know where they want to work and they don’t usually look
directly at an organisation’s website, although this is where
most employers advertise their opportunities, as seen above.
Most young people use online job boards and websites such
as Monster and Reed, as well as graduate job websites such as
Milkround. Some said they use industry-specific/specialist job
sites and all said they have used the newly launched government
website ‘Universal Job Match’ as this is where the Jobcentre Plus
told them to look for jobs. All young people have expressed very
strong views on the new Universal Job Match, although none of
them were positive views, for example: ‘it’s not user-friendly and
is unhelpful’ and ‘it’s the same jobs advertised for months’. They
also included more specific comments, such as: the jobs that are
advertised on the website don’t have employer contact details,
so a candidate can only send a ‘generic’ request via the online
system. The system also doesn’t allow you to amend or tailor
your CV/covering letter when applying, which contradicts the
advice jobseekers are given.
22 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
A number of young people also tried to approach their job
search by registering with recruitment agencies, but generally
didn’t have good experiences. They commented that the
agencies would offer them jobs that had nothing to do with
what they wanted to do (mainly call centre jobs) or arranged
meetings with them just to fulfil a certain quota.
When it comes to applying for jobs, the application forms are
mostly a mystery to young people. Young people don’t really know
what to include in the form and how to use examples of school
and university experience to demonstrate their skills to employers.
This is similar when it comes to writing their CV, which has come
up as one of the top issues. Most mentors said they were shocked
at how ‘confused’ the young person’s CV was and how it didn’t
make the most of their qualifications, experiences and skills.
YOUNG PEOPLE’S EXPERIENCES AND
UNDERSTANDING OF SELECTION PROCESSES
Recruitment processes are not clear for many young people.
This often starts with who to contact:
‘Everything is the same: there are no names on the advert,
nobody I can write to. If there was a name that would give
more meaning to my application letter. Now I don’t even know
if somebody will read my letter, it’s all so anonymous’ (Preeti,
young jobseeker and Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester).
In general, they say they have very limited information about
the processes and different expectations at the different
selection stages. Many don’t understand how competitive
the process is and what employers’ expectations are (no
background research, and so on). Most young people don’t
even know that there are different stages:
‘It would be good to have more information about the process
– if somebody would tell me about the different stages and
how it works, what they are looking for in each stage. Now it’s
just like throwing something into a black hole; you don’t know
what happens afterwards and you don’t know where you went
wrong’ (Rose, Young Ambassador, the Prince’s Trust).
They also say that for them it is important to have a closing date,
but that many of the jobs they apply to don’t have that. This is
also an issue, as research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
shows that many young people are unaware of the competitive
nature of the jobs market and underestimate the importance of
applying for vacancies quickly (Tunstall et al 2012).
Face-to-face interviews are something which is also particularly
challenging, even for those young people who thought they
knew how to write a CV and a covering letter, which was the
case of the students at Regent’s University we spoke to: the
majority didn’t know what would be expected of them at an
interview, how to prepare for it, what format it would take.
Most young people find it very difficult to ‘sell’ themselves in an
interview situation; they struggle with confidence issues and the
formality of the interview situation, especially if they haven’t been
in an office before, as is the case with many young people.
‘I don’t feel fully myself if I am in a suit and a tie. It does not help
my confidence’ (Keith, Young Ambassador, the Prince’s Trust).
They told us that it intimidates them to sit across from someone
at a desk or a table and that they would prefer a more active,
A key issue that both the young jobseekers and their mentors
raised is the lack of constructive feedback provided by
employers. For young people this is the number one issue they
mentioned when we asked about their experience of the job
search. They told us how getting feedback would help them
with their morale but also to understand where they are going
wrong. They overwhelmingly told us that ‘employers aren’t
giving any helpful tips or personal advice on applications’. Our
mentors concluded that this not only means that employers
aren’t helping young people to improve, but it could also be
harmful to the employer brand: ‘if an employer doesn’t reply to
applications, nobody wants to work there.’
23EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
THE IMPACT OF (NO) EMPLOYER FEEDBACK
‘I haven’t had any feedback from my applications at all. Sometimes I’ve received an automated reply saying “your application
has been received”, that’s all.’ Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester
‘Employers don’t give feedback, so everyone becomes despondent. Most young people get a message saying you didn’t get to
the next stage with no explanation, no feedback, so they wonder “what did I do wrong?” It is very disheartening.’
Eloise Grant, PPDG
‘When I did get replies back they said that other candidates had more experience or better profiles, I found that very
depressing, because how was I going to get that experience?’ Gulcin, Steps Ahead mentee, Leicester
‘My current mentee had been applying for different jobs but kept getting rejected. No feedback was provided and most of the
systems used were automated and very complicated. I tried to find a contact to help him but couldn’t.’ Sandra, CIPD member
and volunteer Steps Ahead mentor, Northampton
‘I applied for a vacancy with a big public sector employer a few months ago, and I am still waiting to hear back. I really think
if there was one thing that employers could do to change their recruitment practices it is to provide feedback. I’ve spent time
applying for a job; it’s a question of respect.’ Vijay, Steps Ahead mentee, Northampton
• How can we provide more support to young people in the transition phase from education to work?
• How can we help young people to better understand employer expectations?
• How can we increase young people’s understanding about job opportunities and career pathways?
• How can we get more young people to access work experience?
• How can employers make their recruitment processes more transparent and youth-friendly?
• How can we build young people’s confidence, in particular in the interview stage?
• How can employers provide more, and more constructive, feedback?
24 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
RECRUITMENT OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND
There can be substantial advantages to using social media
for recruitment purposes, particularly when recruiting young
people, who are on the whole very comfortable with these
websites and tools and use them as part of their daily life. But
organisations need to be mindful that it can disadvantage
other groups, such as older workers.
As Jennifer Lee, HR director at Jurys Inn, says: ‘We have
started to use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn a lot for our
recruitment. It is new to us as a business but it’s inevitable, the
technology evolves and we as a business need to evolve with
it.’ She explains that Jurys Inn already have a substantial online
programme they use for e-learning which is hugely popular
with their employees, but that ‘recruitment and selection have
been a bit slow to catch up, but clearly it’s the future.’
This is the case for many organisations who’ve started to
realise the potential opportunities an increased social media
presence, especially with regards to attracting and recruiting
young people, can bring. Out of the around 30 organisational
case studies we carried out as part of the research more than
half used at least one form of social media to attract young
people, and many are planning to develop more. Santander,
for example, are hoping to develop a recruitment ‘app’ that
will allow them to specifically target young people.
The overall use of social media sites for recruitment is
becoming increasingly widespread. A 2008 survey for the
US Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found
that 34% of organisations used social networking sites to
recruit or contact potential applicants, and 19% said that they
planned to do so in the future.
Within this context of increasing use of social media for
recruitment and high engagement levels of young people
with technology and social media in particular, it makes sense
for employers to include it when recruiting young people.
Joos (2008) found that using social media as part of an
organisation’s recruitment strategy is reported to be particularly
effective for recruiting certain categories of individuals, such
as graduates, skilled workers, managers and executives. He
confirms that these groups tend to be comparatively computer-
literate and use technology routinely in their daily lives, both for
work and personal purposes. He found that the use of social
media to recruit so-called ‘millennials’6
is extremely effective.
Furthermore, Davison et al (2011) note that young individuals
appear to be less concerned about privacy than previous
generations and so will be more accepting of the use of these
types of sites for recruitment purposes. Yeaton (2008) warns:
‘The characteristics of Gen Y require an adjustment in focus
and perspective…innovative recruiting techniques are needed
to engage this latest cultural shift.’
Searle (2006) notes that social media is now beginning to
replace more traditional recruitment methods for attracting
young people, such as the graduate website Milkround.com and
recruitment fairs and talks. Wright (Nigel Wright Recruitment
2011) also notes that hiring managers and recruiters are finding
that they need to be more proactive in their approach to
recruitment, by engaging with potential candidates across a wide
range of social networking platforms. ‘Essentially, companies
and recruiters need to be where their candidates are in order to
engage them in the recruitment process.’
Young people are reported to be increasingly using social
media websites in order to build an online career presence
4 SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE
RECRUITMENT OF YOUNG PEOPLE
• Young people are very comfortable with using all types of social media, both for leisure and work purposes. Employers
should therefore try to use social media in their recruitment strategy, as this will be a good way of reaching young people.
However, organisations need to be mindful not to disadvantage other groups.
• Young people are also very aware of online presence, which includes the online presence of a company or a brand. It is
therefore worth thinking about how to present overall brand image and organisational culture to young people, via social
media. This will increase the chances of attracting young people to the organisation and subsequently applying for jobs.
• Although LinkedIn is the leading professional social media site, young people prefer to communicate on Facebook, including
for work purposes, and many have not got a LinkedIn profile. Employers should therefore think about including Facebook in
their recruitment strategy – for example, creating Facebook fan pages that then link to a company careers site.
• Social media has many advantages, including developing brand awareness, saving money on recruitment and allowing
the employer to target recruitment efforts. However, there are also some issues and potential problems, notably around
screening and treating all candidates fairly.
Broadly taken to include those with birth dates from the late 1970s/early 1980s to the late 1990s.
25EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
and search for jobs. A survey carried out by Potentialpark in
2011 of over 31,000 graduates, students and early career
professionals worldwide found that almost 100% of survey
participants in Europe would like to interact with employers
online. The preference was for LinkedIn (48%), with Facebook
However, the survey found some reservations among young
people about using Facebook for job applications, with 56%
of participants stating that Facebook was not the right place
to interact with employers, and 48% saying that they were
uncomfortable with sharing private information. Nevertheless,
it also found that relatively few young people had a LinkedIn
profile. This is reinforced by a study carried out by Florenthal
and Dykhouse (2012), who note that two-thirds of students
currently engaged in study had not initiated building their
professional profile on LinkedIn, or do not fully utilise their
‘Most professionals use virtual networks such as LinkedIn to
find jobs, but young people don’t know about it’ (Vanessa Paul,
Talent and Acquisition Specialist, Standard Chartered).
Employers are realising that Facebook is where young people
tend to spend their online time, rather than more professional
sites such as LinkedIn. Organisations are therefore creating
Facebook fan pages that aim to attract young people with their
content, as a way of reaching ‘passive’ jobseekers or students
who are not yet actively searching the jobs market.
THE ADVANTAGES OF USING SOCIAL MEDIA
AS A RECRUITMENT TOOL
There are real advantages to using social media as part of an
organisational recruitment strategy. These centre mainly on
reducing costs, reaching a wider pool of potential applicants,
and also on being able to target recruitment more effectively.
Probably the most prominent advantage to using social media
as a component of recruitment strategy is cost reduction.
Organisations that use websites such as LinkedIn to search for
specialist functions can save a lot of money on recruitment
agency fees. Further, using Facebook is a relatively quick and
easy way of attracting large numbers of potential applicants,
particularly among young people, where the informal nature of
the communication lends itself well to this function.
Social media tools allow employers to target their recruitment
drive at specific groups of potential candidates. In the case of
young people, postings on Facebook are particularly effective,
as Facebook is probably the most widely used social media tool
amongst young people. Use of hashtags on Twitter can also
help to direct notices to specific online communities.
Young people are also extremely familiar with the video-sharing
website YouTube and some employers are using this to good
effect in order to give potential applicants a real idea of the
culture of a workplace using videos of workers and managers.
In the case of young people, this type of approach is likely to
be particularly effective, as young people are more likely to be
influenced by factors such as organisational culture and finding
an organisation that allows them to combine work and their
overall lifestyle in the way that they want.
In addition, social media allows employers to target a passive
audience – those who are not actively seeking a new job,
but may become interested once they know more about the
organisation, or who may know someone who is looking for
a job. The ability to forward links and to ‘retweet’ messages
means that information has a significant reach via social media.
Reverse targeting can also be a benefit of social media. If
organisations can give a clear picture of their organisation and
of specific jobs through social media tools such as Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube, this may deter those individuals from
applying who realise that this is not the right organisation or
job for them.
RISKS AND COSTS OF USING SOCIAL MEDIA
Alongside the advantages of using social media, as set out
above, organisations need to think about some of the potential
issues that could arise from its use. These are set out below.
RANDOM HOUSE GROUP: AN ONLINE COMMUNITY OF YOUNG PEOPLE INTERESTED IN PUBLISHING
Random House Group advertises all its work experience placements on a Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/randomhouseworkexperience This is to ensure a fair and open access to the placements, as the
company receives a very high number of applications. Through this interactive Facebook page Random House have also created
an online community of young people interested in entering the publishing industry, who exchange advice and feedback
about their placement with prospective candidates: ‘Young people tend to give feedback about their placement as well as
our recruitment process on the Facebook page, it is all very open,’ explains Neil Morrison, HR director at Random House,
although he admits that their approach is probably different from other companies because of the culture of their industry: ‘it
is very informal and creative.’ Random House then choose a random number of applications. They strongly encourage young
applicants to persevere and try again if they haven’t been selected the first time round: ‘Some people apply three or four times
or even more and then they will get a placement. I always tell them, if you don’t succeed at the first try, apply again but make
sure that every application is as polished as the first,’ says Neil. Their open and interactive approach could potentially lead to
problems, but so far, he says they haven’t had any issues with inappropriate posts, although this may also be the case because
they attract a specific socio-economic group.
26 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
ACCURACY OF INFORMATION
Young people tend to be very knowledgeable about social media
sites and weave their use seamlessly into their lives, as seen above.
Although there is an overall lack of research on the accuracy of the
information provided on social networking sites such as Facebook,
it is possible that individuals could devise a separate site for
‘professional’ purposes, meaning that an employer accessing this site
has no means of checking the accuracy of this information. Davison
et al (2011) note that ‘an individual who creates a webpage may be
trying to impress friends, family, potential mates, and/or employers,
and the type of distortion or “faking” may differ depending on the
intended viewer. For example, individuals may “fake good” if they
think their parents or employers will see the webpage.’
Although using social media tools can offer a wide range of
advantages, there are costs, mainly linked to the upkeep of
websites and Twitter feeds. This will particularly be the case if
applicants are encouraged to post queries through these sites.
Organisations need to ensure that queries are answered relatively
promptly and that site content is updated on a regular basis,
otherwise potential applicants will lose interest in the site and be
put off applying for a job in the organisation altogether. This is
especially pertinent for young people, who expect fast responses
and ever-changing content that is up to date and interesting. For
employers, therefore, a dedicated resource needs to be allocated to
the upkeep of social media sites and to monitor the traffic on the
site in order to find out what is effective. Many employers either
have a digital strategy manager, whose job it is to keep these sites
up to date, or share out the responsibility among staff.
Employers should bear in mind, however, that traffic on these
sites can be unpredictable in terms of volumes, and so some
kind of strategy on placing a limit on the time devoted to these
sites is advisable. For example, organisations could make it clear
that queries will be answered within a certain timeframe, but
SCREENING APPLICANTS – IS IT ETHICAL?
In addition to attracting applicants, social networking tools can
be used in the screening process, as they offer the possibility for
employers to gain extra knowledge about candidates. In the case
of young people in particular, Facebook pages contain a great
deal of information about individuals’ private lives and lifestyles
in general. This potential blurring of work and private lives can
potentially cause problems.
Some employers acknowledge that they do access extra
information about employees by looking at their online profiles.
Broughton et al (2010) cite a US survey which found that the most
common reasons for rejecting candidates were based on lifestyle
rather than employment: 53% of HR managers responding to
the survey cited online postings that included ‘provocative or
inappropriate’ photographs as a reason to turn down a candidate.
More recently, in 2012, the US website CareerBuilder.com (Grasz
2012) explored the issue of screening in more detail by conducting
a survey of 2,300 recruiting managers. It found that 37% of
respondents had looked at candidates’ online profiles. Of those
who did not do this, 15% said that their organisation did not allow
it, but 11% said that although they were not currently doing this,
they planned to begin doing so. Of those employers who access
online profiles, around a third said that they had found material
that had made them decide not to recruit that individual. This
includes inappropriate photos or information, or information that
showed that qualifications had been falsified. Nevertheless, one-
third of these managers also reported that the information that
they had accessed had made them more likely to hire an individual.
There is at present no legislation or specific legal guidance on this
issue. While some employers admit to checking out candidates
online, it is rare for an organisation to do this in a systematic way.
Some organisations state that they do not do this on a matter of
principle, for reasons to do with fair treatment of all applicants
(applicants cannot be considered equally if the employer knows
more about some than others). Further, although as yet untested
in the courts, there may be difficulties associated with knowing
too much about an individual. For example, a situation could arise
in which an employer knows the political or religious beliefs of an
individual after having accessed their online profile during selection.
If the individual is recruited, and a situation subsequently arises in
which the employer wishes to dismiss the employee on competency
grounds, the employee could then argue that the employer is
discriminating against them on the basis of their religious or political
beliefs. It is very difficult to ‘unknow’ something once it is known
and therefore the easiest way is for the employer not to access this
information at all. At the least, if an employer is going to access the
online profiles of candidates, it is good practice to let the candidates
know beforehand and to do this for all candidates.
LIMITING THE APPLICANT POOL
Although social media can extend the reach of recruitment,
employers relying heavily on social media tools for recruitment
should bear in mind that these tools, used on their own, are
most likely to attract certain types of individuals such as people
under 40 and those who are comfortable with this technology.
There is therefore a risk that the recruitment process becomes
unfair by excluding too many applicants who do not fit into these
categories. Accordingly, none of the case study organisations
in research carried out recently for Acas (Broughton et al 2013,
forthcoming) used social media tools in isolation for recruitment
purposes, for fear of not casting the net wide enough when
making recruitment decisions.
• How can employers better integrate social media in their recruitment strategy?
• How can employers use popular social media sites such as Facebook to attract young people?
• How can we help more young people to develop a professional profile, for example via LinkedIn?
• How ethical is it to screen potential candidates?
27EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
TO WHAT EXTENT ARE YOUNG PEOPLE AND
EMPLOYERS FROM ‘DIFFERENT PLANETS’?
With the title of the report we have tried to attract attention
to the gulf that exists between young people and employers.
In our research we have found clear evidence for this, with a
considerable number of issues (some of them similar) on both
sides (Table 2).
But what we have also seen in our best practice examples
is that it often does not take a lot to bring employers and
young people together, and once some of the obstacles
are removed, this relationship works very well. Through
the work of HR professionals who act as our volunteer
mentors, we also know that quite often it’s the small things
that make a big difference: for example, teaching a young
person to research the company they want to work for or
by having an appropriately presented and well-structured
CV. We’ve seen first-hand how a little advice can go a long
way and help bridge that seemingly huge gap between
what employers expect and what young people know.
There is also a lot employers can do that can significantly
contribute to the success of young people going through
their recruitment process: for example, looking beyond the
seemingly ‘inappropriate’ outfit to identify an enthusiasm
and willingness to learn, reaching out to young people to
talk about the opportunities available at their organisations
and not ask probing questions about past experience. Further
below we will share some examples of what employers have
done to make their recruitment practices ‘youth friendly’ and
how successful this has been.
That employers are generally satisfied with young people,
once they have given them a chance, is also confirmed by our
research with employers that have recruited young people:
an overwhelming majority (91%) is very or fairly satisfied with
their young recruits (CIPD 2012b).
This has also come out of our employer interviews: Microsoft,
for example, work with 32,000 partners and four training
providers across the UK to deliver apprenticeships in the IT
sector and the majority of their apprentices are very young,
16–18-year-olds. Their experiences prove the concern about
what young people can deliver in the workplace wrong: ‘We
have lots of case studies of our 16–18-year-olds that show
the contrary, returns to our investment are very quick, after
six months our apprentices are a valued member of the team
that help increase productivity and performance.’
This is also an experience Anouska Ramsay, Head of Talent at
Capgemini, has had: ‘I’d tell other employers to be prepared
to be surprised at the level of energy and interest young
people bring to your business. It’s significantly higher than you
Similarly, Thames Water, which has started to offer
apprenticeships in electrical engineering, were so impressed
with the high quality of applicants that they offered more
places than originally planned: ‘We took a higher intake than
planned because of the high quality of applicants, so what we
did is create more roles,’ she explains.
GETTING YOUNG PEOPLE MORE INFORMED
ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES AND HOW TO
As we have seen above, there are a number of issues young
people struggle with. As part of the follow-up to this research
we will produce some guidance for young people, giving
them practical tips and advice about recruitment and job
search and how they can ensure that they position themselves
in the best possible way to access jobs. In this section we will
– rather than looking at what young people need to do – look
at what can be done to help young people to improve their
5 ADDRESSING THE YOUNG PEOPLE
AND JOBS MISMATCH
TABLE 2: Employers and young people mismatches
Employers Young people
Struggle to engage with young people, perceive them as
difficult and a ‘risk’
Don’t know about job opportunities available and what it is
they want to do
Are unsure how they can bring a young person into their
Don’t know how to apply for jobs and how to ‘market’
themselves to employers
Have high expectations and are regularly disappointed by
young people during the recruitment process
Don’t know how to talk about their skills, how important
preparation and presentation is and are intimidated by
Don’t know how to assess someone with no work experience Struggle with accessing work experience and hence lack insight
into the working world
28 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
employability skills, work experience and knowledge about the
opportunities that are available.
Clearly, better advice and guidance while in education is a crucial
part of the solution. Further below we look at what policy-
makers need to do to support this. However, many employers
have told us they are keen to get more involved with schools and
this is also confirmed by our quantitative research in this area:
seven out of ten employers believe they should be more engaged
with the education system (CIPD 2012b).
We’ve seen above how crucial employer involvement in schools
is in terms of fostering an understanding amongst young people
about job opportunities available and how this leads to reducing
the risk of young people becoming NEET. However, in addition
to that, a ground-breaking new study by Anthony Mann and
Christian Percy shows there is also a wage premium associated
with young people having employer contact at school: the study
shows that each employer contact on a scale of 0 to 4+ relates
on average to a wage premium of 4.5%, or £900, so that a
young adult recalling four or more contacts could be expected
to earn £3,600 more than a peer who remembered no such
activities (Mann and Percy 2013).The authors of the study explain
that these benefits of employer contact are due to teenagers
having access to reliable, usable information about the jobs
market and where they might best fit into it:
‘As well as potentially developing skills and networks of
relevance to later employment, young people are gaining
access to hugely useful insights into the breadth of the labour
market and entry routes into different professions. And
employer contacts are of such great impact because teenage
understanding of the labour market is generally very poor. By
gaining better access to information about the labour market,
young people are better placed to understand the opportunities
which best match their interests, enthusiasms and abilities,’
explains Anthony Mann, Research Director at the Education and
Employers Taskforce and one of the authors of the study.
The CIPD therefore strongly supports initiatives such as the
Inspiring the Future initiative www.inspiringthefuture.org, a
simple, straightforward system that matches employers from all
sectors and levels with local state schools.
However, this research also shows that more needs to be done
to not just inform young people about the opportunities that
are out there but also to prepare them to apply for those:
young people need to know more about recruitment processes,
how to write good CVs and applications and how to market
themselves to potential employers in order to be able to
compete in the labour market and make a successful transition
from education to employment.
Jo Ward, Head of Resourcing and Talent, Nestlé, also thinks
employers have to take some responsibility and get involved
when it comes to young people not knowing much about the
recruitment process and how competitive it is: ‘Young people
don’t know how competitive the recruitment process is. They
don’t know that they need to stand out from the crowd in
order to get the job. We need to go into schools and tell them
OUTREACH TO ENGAGE WITH YOUNG PEOPLE AT SCHOOL: APEX HOTELS
Apex Hotels uses a range of approaches to engage with young people while they are at school and college in order to
highlight the career opportunities within the business and encourage applications.
The Edinburgh-based hotel chain takes part in regular initiatives to promote a more positive image of the catering and
hospitality industry and connect with local young people in the community. For example, it works closely with Springboard
Scotland, a non-profit organisation which develops and supports school pupils, job-seekers and those wishing to advance their
careers in hospitality, leisure and tourism.
Apex, which has hotels in Edinburgh, Dundee and London, recently partnered with Springboard to hold a jobs’ fair for third,
fourth and fifth year students and their parents to highlight the wide range of different jobs and career paths within the
business. Robert Allan, Apex’s HR director, says:
‘We wanted to get across that, yes, the hotel industry does involve making beds and serving food but potential careers in the
hotel industry are actually very diverse, for example sales, marketing, finance, HR and revenue. About 80–90 of our 730 staff
work in these support functions.
‘We want to paint a picture of what developing a career at Apex looks like. This means making sure young people understand
that they if they are prepared to invest their time in an entry-level role, there are progression opportunities. For example, you
might start out as a banqueting waiter but there is a clear progression route to becoming a banqueting manager or general
manager if you develop the right skills and have the right attitude.’
At another outreach event, Apex Hotels partnered with Gleneagles Hotel to create a pop-up hotel at Gleneagles in a day-
long career taster event to give young people insights into the reality of hotel work. Pupils could see chefs in action making
omelettes, or watch hotel spa staff giving treatments. The HR team also held HR workshops during the day talking about what
employers expect, how to improve CVs and the importance of doing some research on prospective employers when making
applications or preparing for interview.
Allan said that the hotel had also held workshops where a member of the HR team talked to young people about recruitment
and selection to help them understand the process and ensure they are better prepared for an interview
29EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
how it works, we need to explain to them that if we get 500
applications, the application form with the coffee stain or the
doodling in the margin gets immediately filtered out.’
As we’ve seen above, many young people don’t think about the
skills they have in a way their potential employer would, which
can further disadvantage them. This is something which many
employers have also mentioned to us. Marcus Lee gives the
example of someone who has participated in Race for Life and
been involved in associated fundraising activities: ‘This requires
lots of organisational skills and commitment. But they would not
think about talking about this in their interview,’ he explains. He
believes that young people are not being told to think about this
in that way: ‘We need to get them to think smarter and wider
about their skills and experiences. Again, to use the Race for Life
example, they shouldn’t think about the event in itself, but about
the skills they’ve used for this. This is what young people need
help with; they should be told that in schools.’
This is why the CIPD will be working with the Education and
Employers Taskforce to develop an initiative that gets our
members, HR professionals, into schools to do exactly that –
run CV workshops and other advice sessions on job search
and employer expectations during the recruitment process. We
hope this will make a real difference in addressing the young
people–jobs mismatch, not just by providing work preparation
to young people but also by changing perceptions amongst
HR professionals, thus addressing some of the issues around
employer expectations and engagement with young people.
This is building on the CIPD’s successful mentoring programme
for young jobseekers (Steps Ahead mentoring, see box),
where HR professionals are matched with young jobseekers to
give face-to-face advice and guidance about CV-writing, job
search and interview techniques. The young jobseekers on our
programme have told us how their mentors have supported
them in their job search activities, built their confidence and
helped them be more targeted in their approach:
‘My mentor helped me to shift my focus. Instead of applying
for any job that I could find, he asked me to research potential
companies I’d like to work for. He broke the process down for
me and slowed down my applications. It’s less daunting now
and I am more targeted in my approach,’ says Matt, Steps
Ahead mentee, Leicester.
Mentoring, through our work but also more generally, is
something that we have seen as a very successful tool to
address the gap between young people and the labour market:
‘You need somebody who listens but is at the same time hard
on you and pushes you forward,’ says Rose, a Prince’s Trust
This can also take the form of peer-to-peer mentoring. Indeed,
many employers have realised that there are substantial
benefits of getting their young employees involved in their
recruitment of young candidates. At Siemens, young candidates
are welcomed and accompanied to the interview by young
apprentices and Jurys Inn does peer and group interviews with
young candidates. Microsoft runs a peer mentoring scheme
with their interns, who talk to other young people about the
sector and the workplace more generally (see box).
As we have seen above, a lack of work experience has been
identified as one of the key barriers to youth employment. We
therefore need to get more employers to offer work experience
to young people. A majority of employers that offer work
THE CIPD’S STEPS AHEAD MENTORING PROGRAMME
Steps Ahead Mentoring is a mentoring project that matches HR professionals with young jobseekers aged 18 to 24. The project
offers young people, most of whom have never worked before, up to six one-to-one mentoring sessions to help them improve
their employability, boost their confidence and find work.
The project is entirely not-for-profit, in line with the CIPD’s charitable purpose, and it is delivered exclusively by volunteers (most
of whom are CIPD members, as well as some non-members upon recommendation). The CIPD works in collaboration with local
Jobcentre Plus offices, which refer the young jobseekers to the scheme. Attendance is not mandatory and young jobseekers
register themselves with the programme if they think it can help them in their job search.
The objective is to bring these young jobseekers closer to the labour market and improve their employability skills through
individual face-to-face mentoring. Over the course of the project, mentees receive advice and guidance on job search, CV-writing
and interview techniques. Mentors also help young people to identify their career prospects and build confidence. Steps Ahead
mentors come from a variety of backgrounds, but most of them have been on the front line of recruitment and are well placed to
help young jobseekers to increase their chances to access the labour market.
Since Steps Ahead Mentoring was launched in August 2011, it has helped 300 young people into employment and now has
over 1,000 volunteer mentors. The project is currently operating in partnership with more than 300 Jobcentre Plus offices across
central England, the north-east of England and the north-west of England. It aims to be operating throughout the UK by 2014.
‘Our mentoring programme provides an individual with one-to-one support on CV-writing and interview skills. Our mentors are
all working in recruitment or related positions so they are ideally placed to give a young person a real insight into what they need
to do to get a job,’ explains Kelly Duncan, Volunteering Manager at the CIPD, who runs the initiative. ‘But often, it’s also just
about listening to someone and building their confidence. Our mentors help the young person to find out what their strengths
and weaknesses are and what they’d like to do in their working life.’
30 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
experience to young people use this as an extended interview
and offer the young person paid employment afterwards (52%,
CIPD 2012b). This is why work experience is so useful; it allows
young people to demonstrate their abilities to future employers:
‘You need to allow young people to experience a situation
where they can display their skills. We have a work placement
programme called “Inspire”. But it is really important to have
a good placement; we have a “Placement Charter” which sets
out what we commit to and what they need to achieve and
highlights the two-way nature of the placement. You need to
put some time and effort into these schemes as many young
people will come back to work for you once they’ve graduated
if you do this well,’ says Jennifer Lee, HR director at the hotel
chain Jurys Inn.
That work experience placements are of high quality is
important, which is why the CIPD has produced a guide
for employers on how to run and set up high-quality work
experience placements (CIPD 2012f).
We strongly recommend employers to participate in
programmes such as the Business in the Community’s Work
Inspiration programme (see box), which gets employers to offer
work experience placements to 14–19-year-olds. Many of the
employers we spoke to already participate in the scheme, but
we need more employers to follow suit.
MICROSOFT’S ‘PEER-TO-PEER’ MENTORING SCHEME
Microsoft believes that peer-to-peer mentoring is the best way to get messages across while at the same time building the skills
and the confidence of those involved in the mentoring. Microsoft recruits around 100 interns per year, via Milkround as part of
their degree. They take on various projects and one of these is Microsoft’s ‘Get on’ programme, which helps young people into
employment. This involves interns giving presentations to other young people at community centres, schools and Jobcentre Plus.
Interns also run half-day events, where they bring in young people to show them what it is like to work in an office and give
them some insights into the industry.
Harsha Ghadavi, who is leading this initiative at Microsoft, explains: ‘I used to do this myself but it works much better when
young people talk to young people. It is so much more powerful. Young people can help to inspire other young people.’
THE PRINCE’S TRUST TEAM PROGRAMME
The Prince’s Trust runs many schemes to help young people access the labour market and one of these is their ‘Team’ programme:
a 12-week personal development course for 16–25-year-olds, offering work experience, qualifications, practical skills, community
projects and a residential week.
Through building their confidence and motivation, Team members are encouraged to think about their futures; this includes
preparing a post-programme development plan.
Young people join a team of up to 15 participants. A team typically comprises around 12 unemployed people and one or two
employed people sponsored by their employers.
During the 12-week programme, Team members:
• spend a week away at a residential activity centre
• undertake a project based in their local community
• complete a work placement
• participate in a team challenge, involving caring for others
• stage a team presentation, during which they recount their experiences.
THE BUSINESS IN THE COMMUNITY’S (BITC) WORK INSPIRATION PROGRAMME
Work Inspiration is a national employer-led campaign that targets 14–19-year-olds in full-time education to make their first
experience of the world of work more meaningful and inspiring. It delivers the tools to support businesses to build their talent
pipeline through work experience – making the world of work more accessible to young people and improving social mobility
by promoting quality work placements.
31EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
ADAPTING RECRUITMENT METHODS TO INCREASE ENGAGEMENT WITH YOUNG PEOPLE:
THE EMPLOYERS’ VIEW
‘We most definitely need to adapt our recruitment practices to better engage with young people. You shouldn’t use a one-size-fits
all model for both younger and more experienced workers,’ says Dominic Gill, Apprenticeships Manager at Microsoft. He also thinks
that employers need to be more realistic in their expectations: ‘Some employers look for the perfect end product, which does not
exist. They will see lots and lots of young people to find the exact right person. But what they should do instead, if the young person
has the required skills and attitude, they should work with that, invest in and develop the young person, instead of waiting for the
finished article.’ This may also include some reviewing of the requirements needed for the job, he explains: ‘We need to be more
sure about what the actual attributes are that we are looking for in a young person and change the way we recruit accordingly.’
He advises employers to not see young people as ‘just another hire’ and instead of waiting for the perfect end product – which,
according to him, ‘doesn’t exist’ – try to be a bit inventive, something that, in his experience, definitely pays off.
‘Very young people have nothing to say, they all have the same CV, so you need to have a recruitment strategy that is different
from your normal approach to recruitment,’ explains Marc-Anderson Boyd, Managing Director at Taylor-Nash. ‘To get the best
out of a young candidate you need to build their confidence first, especially as the whole recruitment process can be very
intimidating for a young person.’
ADAPTING RECRUITMENT PRACTICES: THE
According to the preliminary data from the CIPD’s Resourcing
and Talent Planning survey 2013, 24% of the respondents
have adapted their recruitment practices to make them
more youth-friendly. We also asked them how they have
adapted their practices and here two main routes emerge:
some organisations have invested in an outreach strategy by
participating in career fairs, and making themselves more visible
to potential candidates via online and social media channels.
The other way to boost the volume of young recruits is through
introducing routes for on-the-job training, including in-house
training opportunities, and more formal apprenticeship
schemes. Some companies have gone as far as ring-fencing
apprenticeship positions and securing permanent jobs for
young people at the end of their apprenticeship, suggesting
that this is a way for the industry to capture talent and invest in
its development. One respondent said:
‘We are introducing a situational judgement test instead
of having a minimum qualification framework. We are also
reviewing our competencies to make them more accessible
as younger applicants tend to struggle with competency-
One of the best examples of why it makes sense to adapt
your recruitment practices when recruiting young people
and how this can be done successfully is Nestlé. Nestlé, as Jo
Ward, Head of Talent and Resourcing at Nestlé, explains, were
experiencing difficulties with filling their graduate vacancies.
Instead of just complaining about the quality of applicants,
the company decided to look at their own practices and what
they could do better to get the most out of candidates during
the application stage. It turned out that their competency-
based interview techniques didn’t help to get the best out of
their young candidates, who had little or no previous work
experience. So they decided to change this:
‘We realised that our competency-based interviews were not
producing the results we were hoping for. Young candidates were
unable to demonstrate their confidence and answer the questions
without referring back to stock answers. So we switched to
a strength-based interview technique, which we developed
and tested with our current graduates. Instead of a previous
experience, candidates are asked a quick succession of about 18
questions about what they would do in a work-based situation.
The results have been impressive and we have considerably
improved our conversion rates. We now typically offer five out
of six young candidates a job,’ says Jo Ward, explaining that this
process benefits both the employer and the young people, who
have reported a better understanding about their strengths and
weaknesses as a result. ‘It is in the best interest of organisations
to help young people to be the best they can,’ says Jo Ward, and
clearly, their newly improved conversion rates and high-calibre
young employees prove Jo right.
But Nestlé is not the only company that has taken innovative
steps to address some of these issues. Below we will share
some examples of employers who have adapted one or
more stages of their recruitment process to better engage
with young people and remove some of the obstacles
to labour market entry. As Karina Rook, HR Director at
Canterbury College, puts it: ‘Employers can’t complain about
young people if they aren’t willing to take a role in their
improvement and development.’
HOW CAN EMPLOYERS ADAPT THEIR
CONVINCE LINE MANAGERS AND
COLLEAGUES OF THE BENEFITS AND MAKE
THE BUSINESS CASE
‘Employers should give young people a chance to demonstrate
their skills and their positive attitude, even if they don’t have
the required work experience. You can mould them in the way
you want, they are not polluted from their previous workplace,’
says Bennet, a Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador.
A number of organisations have now actively committed to
a strategy aimed at increasing their intake of young people,
aware of the need to build their future talent pipeline. Ageing
32 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
workforces and the need for new, often digital skills have been
driving these developments. For example, the energy company
National Grid recently prioritised young people following a large-
scale workforce planning exercise and concerns around their
This experience is also shared by Samantha Newman, Head of HR
at WR Refrigeration, who says their CEO is absolutely committed
for the organisation to increase their engagement with young
people: ‘We used to be an old company, with very little “new
blood”; we had very few young people joining the business and an
ageing workforce as a result. This is why we’ve now launched our
apprenticeships programme with the aim to make sure that 5% of
the workforce is made up of apprentices.’
But even those organisations that traditionally have always had
a closer connection with the youth labour market, such as the
hospitality sector, say they could do more to support young
people’s transition from education to work. For Whitbread, for
example, the desire to bring young people into the business has
always constituted an important and substantial aspect of their
recruitment activity; however, as Liz White, WISE Programme
Projects Manager at Whitbread, explains, the business sees their
work with young people as a ‘bit of a journey’: ‘We see our
engagement with young people as evolutionary; yes, we are
doing a lot already, but we can also do a lot better. We are a big
organisation and we want to make a real difference to young
people’s employment outcomes while also getting the talent we
need for our business to grow.’ Whitbread has therefore pledged
to offer 50% of their new openings to young people not in
employment, education and training (NEETs).
Despite the challenges and issues outlined above, more and more
employers realise that they need to step up their engagement with
young people, and while this is not (yet) reflected in recruitment,
there is definitely a latent demand and untapped potential: a
majority (74%) of employers think there is a business case for
employing young people, citing the need to build their talent
pipeline, young people’s skills and motivation, workforce diversity,
employer brand and cost-effectiveness as their key reasons.
Furthermore, almost three-quarters of employers believe they have
a role to play in tackling youth unemployment (CIPD 2012c).
A majority of employers questioned in a recent CIPD poll said
that they would appreciate more advice on how to bring young
people into their organisation and more support on how to
engage with schools and colleges.7
So there is definitely employer
appetite to engage more with young people, which must be
harnessed and supported. Some of this support needs to be
directed at line managers, which have often been identified as a
barrier to youth employment.
The majority of the employers we spoke to said that the crucial
first step was to convince line managers and colleagues of the
benefits of bringing in young people as well as making the
business case for this to senior staff. This also included producing
some advice and guidance for line managers on how to engage
with young people.
‘When recruiting, it is difficult not to look at those people who
have more experience and instead make the case for taking
someone younger who needs more upfront investment,’ says
Laura Taylor, Resourcing Manager at Thames Water. Laura
goes on to explain that with their graduate programme and
newly launched apprenticeships programme in particular, the
organisation has made a conscious commitment to take on this
‘risk’ and fully commit to the investment. But she also explains that
it takes substantial work behind the scenes to make this happen;
for example, their resourcing specialists regularly talk to line
managers across the business, asking them what support they may
need and explaining to them the benefits of taking on a ‘fresh pair
of eyes’, compared with recruiting a more experienced worker.
This is confirmed by Neil Morrison, HR Director at Random House:
‘You need to have a conversation with the line manager, explaining
to them that we need to access a wider talent pool and how this is
going to help them in achieving their business objectives.’
As we have seen above, another issue is where opportunities
are offered across sectors and organisations and highlighting
the benefits to recruiting young people to those who don’t. The
CIPD has previously produced some work on the business case
for employer investment in young people, which puts forward
the key business benefits as well as shares best practices as to
how to get buy-in (see CIPD 2012c) so we won’t look at this in
much detail in this report, but we recommend employers revisit
the business case for employing young people, particularly
in high-skilled sectors, where we have seen that employers
are still reluctant to bring in young people; yet, as discussed
earlier, according to forecasts by the UKCES the UK’s future
jobs are precisely in those sectors and occupations that don’t
recruit young people (UKCES 2013). There is therefore a strong
CIPD 2012b, 57% and 61% respectively.
LINE MANAGERS: KEY DECISION-MAKERS IN THE RECRUITMENT OF YOUNG PEOPLE
‘We need to change the mindset of the manager population so they understand why they need to invest in young people and
get them to look beyond the first impression.’ Laura Taylor, Resourcing Manager, Thames Water.
‘If you want to bring more young people into your organisation, you need to ensure that there is buy-in from the line manager
from the outset. They need to know why the organisation needs young people, what to expect, how to handle them and how
to identify talent,’ argues Catherine Schleiben, Head of Recruitment, ITV.
‘Line managers sometimes allow their expectation of young people to inform the way in which they interview them. This is
why it is important to provide some advice and guidance on how they can get the best out of a young candidate,’ explains
Samantha Follington, HR Business Partner from Veolia.
33EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
business case to be made in these sectors on the basis of
preventing future skills shortages.
We looked earlier at employers’ expectations of young people,
but it is important to note that many of the employers we spoke
to also recognised that some of the expectations they have
for young people might be unrealistic and unfair. Helen Alkin,
Graduate Recruitment Manager from M&S, for instance, said that
many employers are still looking for the young people who have
‘the whole package’ – so those who are missing certain elements
are viewed less favourably and this, she argues, ‘is as much a
challenge for the employer as it is for the young person. We need
to review our selection criteria.’
Other employers said that they recognised that transitions into
work are taking longer than they used to and involve more stages
than they used to (for example internships) and that young
people need to have more employer support during these stages:
‘Somebody needs to give advice to young people, talk to them
about how important first impressions are and how competitive
the process is’ (Laura Taylor, Resourcing Manager, Thames Water).
‘Young people don’t know how to behave in the recruitment
process, for example they would turn up in jeans, when they
need to come in a suit even if the job is informal. So you often
don’t get to see their best side. We need to also give advice to
managers, ask them to look beyond the jeans or whatever it may
be that is holding the young person back.’
Alan MacKinnon, Director of Talent Acquisition EMEA at IHS
Consulting, thinks more could be done to give young people
a welcoming and positive first experience of the workplace,
something which IHS is very keen to do in their recruitment
process: ‘Young people should be welcomed into organisations
to experience first-hand what they’re really like. It’s so important
to make young people’s interview experience as positive as
possible,’ explaining that this is why they organise open days. He
also acknowledges that ‘it’s a challenge to remember that young
people have little or no first-hand experience of a workplace.’
But he says that employers need to take this into account
when recruiting a young person: ‘We need to allow for this. It’s
important to make young people’s interview experiences positive.
It’s very important not to knock their confidence.’
ROLES AND ACCESS ROUTES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
‘Avoid the temptation to pick the easiest option in regards to
recruitment. Try new ideas and approaches’ (Sam Newman,
Head of HR, WR Refrigeration).
Our Learning to Work survey (CIPD 2012b) shows that two-
thirds of employers think that they need to offer more access
routes into organisations for non-graduates. Many of the
employers we spoke to during our research were starting to
develop more routes, such as apprenticeship schemes and
school-leaver programmes. Even if the number of schemes
is still quite low, there is definitely a significant change in
organisations’ approach to bringing in young people, aside
from simply offering graduate routes.
Capgemini, for instance, historically a graduate recruiter, has
started to roll out apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships,
projecting 120 places for higher apprenticeships this year. They
have also started to offer sponsored degree routes. Similarly,
Boots – again an organisation traditionally only offering
graduate schemes – is now beginning to offer apprenticeship
schemes across the business, with a total of 28 places in
disciplines as diverse as IT, finance, HR and marketing. Likewise,
Santander has run a successful apprenticeships pilot with 275
apprentices across its business over the last year. School-leavers’
programmes and sponsored degree routes have also grown
in popularity, with organisations such as Experian and Nestlé
beginning to offer these routes to young people for the first
time (see box on school-leavers’ programmes).
Then there is also the issue of organisations that offer
apprenticeships but only in certain occupations branching out
to include more jobs across their business. For example, Michael
Brewis, at Aberdeenshire Council, said that the council had a
history of recruiting apprenticeships in traditional areas such
as joinery, plumbing and ground maintenance but not in other
HOW CAN YOU DESIGN AND OFFER MORE ROLES INTO YOUR ORGANISATION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE?
‘Our industry rarely employs very young people; we think they are not professional enough, but that’s not true. There are
now apprenticeships frameworks for so many occupations, we work with four local colleges and employ apprentices in our
business from payroll to consultancy’. Marc Anderson-Boyd, Managing Director, Taylor Nash.
‘You need to think carefully about the kind of roles you have to offer. Make sure they are real roles, not roles created for the
sake of it. Otherwise you are not giving a realistic experience of work to young people. It’s also important to ensure that each
role has scope for development and that you give lots of support to the young person,’ says Marsha Witter, Talent Scheme
‘We have realised that we need to do things differently, in terms of growing our own and bringing in more young people.
We’ve reviewed the roles we offer and whether we can redesign some of those to bring in more young people. As a result
we are now hiring 18-year-olds for our commercial functions. We train them for two years across the supply chain in various
positions from marketing to HR and we also do sponsored degree routes, where we support 12 people over three years. It’s
been the easiest business case I’ve ever made as everyone understood that if the traditional routes are not delivering we need
to think about what the business needs,’ explains Jo Ward, Head of Talent and Resourcing, Nestlé.
34 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
areas such as IT, payroll or HR. The decision to start recruiting
apprentices more widely across the organisation has been
filtered down from senior managers to line managers, with the
HR team also playing a key role in encouraging line managers to
consider using apprenticeships to fill vacancies.
This also requires employers to think more about succession
planning and progression routes. Robert Allan, HR Director at
Apex Hotels, said the HR team is currently working on succession
planning within the business, creating a skills matrix showing
what each role looks like and the skills required for progression
to the next level. This will help highlight to staff at all levels what
they need to do and the skills they need to acquire in order to
support their career progression in the business.
ATTRACT A WIDER POOL OF YOUNG PEOPLE
‘Think carefully about how you communicate with young people.
It’s not the same as communicating with older workers. You need
to be more experimental and innovative’ (Anouska Ramsay, Head
of Talent, Capgemini).
As we have seen, it’s important where and how employers advertise
their opportunities. Young people are more sceptical about
stereotypical ‘corporate’ communication and more likely to respond
to humour or innovative content. Martin Hottass, Manager, Skills
and Learning Governance at Siemens, explains how Siemens first
fell into the trap of wanting to protect their image as a ‘serious’
brand and thus did not want to adapt their recruitment material for
young people. However, the company then ran some focus groups
with young people on their material to test their ‘youth appeal’
and subsequently changed their language, using colours to attract
young people. ‘Young people are our customers, so we need to
adapt our literature to their needs,’ says Martin Hottass.
Quite a few of the employers we interviewed highlighted the
need to do more ‘outreach’ to promote their opportunities to
young people. National Grid, Capgemini, Boots, Asda, M&S
and Siemens all said they attended careers fairs, school events,
open evenings and parent/teacher events in schools. As Donna
Browne, Talent Manager at Boots, explains: ‘many young people
don’t know about the opportunities we offer and they don’t look
at our website, so we need to do as much as we can to go to
them.’ She explains that Boots go to career fairs and into schools
to interact with young people directly in order to ‘highlight the
different options, raise awareness and interact with them’. Asda
SCHOOL-LEAVERS’ PROGRAMMES AND SPONSORED DEGREE COURSES IN PROFESSIONAL AND
BUSINESS SERVICES: THE FUTURE NORMAL?
Creating more non-graduate roles into professional and managerial jobs would offer ladders of opportunity to young people
and feed the talent pipeline for employers.
Overall, labour market data shows that professional business services organisations are the least likely to bring in young
people, in particular non-graduates. However, some organisations have started to realise that this needs to change and that
they need to do things differently. Some have therefore stated to offer school-leaver programmes, where young non-graduates
are trained in the business, and programmes that combine on-the-job training with sponsored degrees.
For example, Barclays is now taking around 75 candidates per year onto their school-leaver programme and planning to increase
this to 150 per year, with twice-yearly intakes. Successful candidates join a three-year programme where they begin in customer
service roles and can move upwards to leadership positions within branches. At the same time they study for a BA degree (paid for
by Barclays), which they receive at the end of year three. Barclays sees their engagement with young people as their contribution to
the wider community and this agenda is very much driven by their CEO. But what has started as a CSR initiative is now increasingly
making business sense, explains Shaun Meekins, Employability Resourcing Manager at Barclays: ‘There is significant young talent out
there. We need to have structures and frameworks in place that allow us to mobilise and support that talent.’
This is echoed by Experian. The company found that young people on their school-leavers’ programme were actually, on
average, better than those on the graduate programme. Two years ago, Experian started a programme aimed at school-
leavers where participants work in the business in a full-time role, but also work towards a BA degree in business management
and leadership. Their year one cohort is due to graduate this summer. Rob Seacombe, Head of Talent and Resourcing, is
leading the company’s more proactive and strategic approach to bringing in young people, saying: ‘You need to look at
your organisation and identify skills gaps and then think about how young people can help you fill those,’ but this requires
commitment and investment: ‘once you’ve identified the business challenge young people can help you to address, you need
to ensure to invest in any activities. Try to foster connectivity between young people and your brand. De-jargon and help them
to see what your organisation can offer them in the future.’
Santander has also developed a school-leavers’ programme, called ‘Flying Start’, which trains A-level students for about
four to five years and turns them into qualified bankers with chartered status. Candidates join Business Banking, a significant
part of the Santander Corporate, Commercial and Business Banking Division. As well as a mix of face-to-face training and
e-learning, they’ll have the chance to shadow more experienced colleagues and then put everything they’ve learned into
practice under the supervision of their line manager or mentor.
35EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
started to engage with local schools around three years ago,
providing talks, presentations, CV workshops and store visits
to increase young people’s knowledge of the business and the
various opportunities available. They also plan to engage more
with parents, who they identify as key influencers.
‘Open days are really important as young people need to be
brought into the workplace to see the environment they’ll
be working in. They need to experience the workplace and
meet people. We need to help them foster a familiarity and to
understand the very basics’ (Alan MacKinnon, Director for Talent
Acquisition EMEA, IHS Consulting).
As seen earlier in this report, there are substantial benefits of
employers using more social media in their recruitment strategy
as it helps to engage with a wider group of young people.
Finally, employers need to advertise more jobs with Jobcentre Plus
and invest more in that relationship. This is why initiatives such as
the BITC’s ‘Generation Talent’, which aims to get more employers
working with JCP, are important (see box).
YOUTH-FRIENDLY SELECTION METHODS
National Grid has been very conscious to choose motivational questions instead of competency-based questions so as not to
exclude young people with no work experience. They are asked about qualifications, hobbies, projects and voluntary experience
and then have to do a situational judgement test which is scenario-based and developed with key internal stakeholders and young
people working in the business. This is intended to give applicants an insight into what it’s like to work for National Grid. This is
followed by a motivational telephone discussion (where the word ‘interview’ is not used) with candidates.
Boots runs a presentation day where 60 to 70 candidates are invited into a conference hall. Here apprentices get a quick
presentation of each area, what kinds of jobs are involved and current apprentices talk about their experience. This is as much about
the young people choosing the organisation as the organisation selecting them, explains Donna Browne: ‘they need to have a good
feeling about this and choose the right area. Some come in and think they want to do one area but they change their mind when
they find out more about it. We give them one week to make up their minds afterwards.’
Siemens runs aptitude tests and situational judgement tests online. These have been designed with young people, current
graduates and their managers to make them more ‘youth-friendly’. Candidates’ maths are tested but in an applied way (for example
ingredients you need to bake a cake). The assessment centre includes role-play, presentations and discussion and at the interview
stage an emphasis is put on practical skills and enthusiasm. ‘We often ask young people to bring something with them that they
have made themselves or get them to talk about a little project,’ says Martin Hottass. ‘The person who gets the job might be the one
who dissembled their mum’s washing machine because they want to know about how it works.’
Royal Bank of Scotland’s Early Careers initiative is aimed at 16–24-year-olds, offering a wide range of programmes across different
disciplines within the organisation. Michael Maddick, Group Head of Early Careers, notes that the bank developed its Early Years
programme to ensure there was a strategic approach to recruiting, developing and retaining young talent. As well as internship
programmes, including ‘Spring Week’ (a week-long programme allowing participants to explore a range of career options within
RBS and experience the business first-hand) and summer internships, RBS also run graduate programmes and school initiatives such
as careers insights events and employability bootcamps. The bank already recruits 3–3,000 young people a year and ensures its
application process is designed to be user-friendly for 16–24-year-olds. The entire process is web-based and includes an application
form and psychometric testing. Candidates are then invited to attend an assessment centre and, if successful, an interview, which
is based on questions designed to be engaging and motivational rather than competency-based. In addition, RBS have two very
successful Facebook sites (RBS Early Careers and CareerKickstart) which support the work of Early Careers, offering tips and hints
about how to write a CV and information about careers in the industry, and providing updates on current participants undertaking
various programmes and news of forthcoming opportunities to get involved in. While the aim of Early Careers is to help spot and
develop young talented individuals, it is not the sole aim, says Michael Maddick: ‘It’s not all about talent. It’s about helping all young
people improve their employability and develop their career. We want to support all. Not just the best’.
BITC’S GENERATION TALENT INITIATIVE
Generation Talent http://www.bitc.org.uk/issues/workplace-and-employees/talent-and-skills/generation-talent-initiative
Generation Talent is a joint initiative between BITC and the Department for Work and Pensions which has been developed to
help jobseekers by providing practical help for companies as they promote their vacancies to the unemployed.
Beginning with a pilot, this initiative ensures that all BITC members receive an enhanced level of service from Jobcentre Plus
(JCP) through a dedicated account manager who works with them at national or local level depending on their needs. So
far it has supported over 100 employers to evaluate their current levels of recruitment from unemployed and assess their
recruitment processes to see if they unwittingly disadvantage unemployed people.
36 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
YOUTH-FRIENDLY SELECTION PROCESSES
‘Employers need to be clearer on their selection criteria at advert
stage to avoid the wrong calibre of candidates applying’ (Lisa,
Steps Ahead mentor, Northampton).
‘Having a closing date is really important, then at least you
know if you didn’t get the job and you don’t wait forever.
Everyone needs “closure”’ (Rose, Young Ambassador, Prince’s
Our research has shown what employers can do to improve their
selection processes. These suggestions have been put forward:
• having a closing date and contact details for the advertised
• more transparency: information about the overall process, the
different stages and the expectations during those stages
• simpler, youth-friendlier application forms
• clarity about selection criteria
• review selection criteria (is experience or a degree really needed?)
But employers also need to think about how they can broaden
their talent pool. This is particularly important in relatively closed
sectors such as media, journalism, publishing or law:
‘There can be a lot of nepotism in our industry,’ says Neil Morrison,
HR Director at Random House. ‘But at Random House we’ve
tried to do things differently; we have a completely open work
experience scheme where hundreds of young people apply.’ He
explains that they can only take a few each time, but make sure
that they have a fair selection process: ‘we select a sample of
random applications.’ But even despite this, he says they are still
struggling to attract applicants from a broader socio-economic
background. He suspects this is coming back to young people from
more diverse backgrounds not knowing about the opportunities
that are available and that they are open to everyone, so
Random House is working proactively on their outreach to more
Similarly, ITV recently conducted a review of their work
experience placements and established that they weren’t
reaching the right audience. They now offer their work
experience placements on a volunteering basis; candidates
apply online and they form a talent pool that is offered work
experience at any time of the year, when opportunities are
available. The intention is to try to create an ‘exclusive but
inclusive’ community, removing the issue of ‘it’s who you know’,
which ITV also acknowledges as a big barrier in the industry.
Aberdeenshire Council is also working with organisations such as
Working with Families and Opportunities for All to allow it to reach
young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Brewis said
the council is considering extending its Two Ticks job guarantee for
disabled people – which guarantees disabled people an interview
if they meet the minimum criteria for the job vacancy – to young
people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
INTERVIEWS THAT GET THE BEST OUT OF A
‘Give someone a chance – don’t judge them by their interview
skills but on their ability’ (Keith, Young Ambassador, Prince’s Trust).
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUNG CANDIDATES: CONFIDENCE-BUILDING INTERVIEW
PROCESSES, THE TAYLOR-NASH WAY
Taylor-Nash is part of a group of niche recruitment companies. Their managing director, Marc Anderson-Boyd, is passionate about
giving young people a chance, saying ‘they are just as good as more experienced workers, we just need to give them a chance.’ The
company is now offering apprenticeships across the organisations, from recruitment consultants to payroll. But Marc realised quickly
that they needed to adapt their interview process to get the best out of potential candidates, so he devised his own three-stage
process that aims to build a young person’s confidence before the actual interview takes place:
‘First stage: This isn’t really an interview. We invite the young person to come in to talk to us – me and another member of staff. I
tell them about the recruitment industry and ask them to have a think about whether they would like to work for us and call me the
next day if that’s the case. All those who call me back the next day get called back and told: “congratulations, you have passed the
first stage of the recruitment process.” This makes them feel more confident and they now pass to the second stage.
‘Second stage: This is with the same person as they had in their first interview, to ensure some continuity. Now we get them to talk
about themselves, about their hobbies, their personal life, what they do at school to see what information they volunteer. Then we
take them to the recruitment floor and have a walk around, introducing them to some of the consultants.
‘Third stage: This is really the main interview. Now they have enough confidence to answer some questions they would not have
been able to answer in the first stage of the process.
‘This approach works really well; we have been very successful with our method. For example, one of our apprentices, Hannah, was
very shy initially but during our three-stage process she really came out of her shell, she was the captain of the hockey team but
would have never told us that when we first met. She wouldn’t have done well in the first interview but was great by stage three of
the process. Our patience has been rewarded many times, for example we have two apprentices working in payroll now; they are
dealing with large sums of money but have both started out very young and shy, like Hannah. It’s a real success story that I would
recommend other employers to replicate.’
37EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
A classic example of the divide between employers and young
people is the interview situation. An employer traditionally
would ask a young person what they know about the
company and why they want to work there. For the employer
this is the most basic question there is; they think this is a
good introduction to the interview. This is why employers
are hugely disappointed if a young person can’t answer
these seemingly straightforward questions. And yet, from
the young person’s point of view, this is the worst possible
scenario; it puts them immediately in a stress situation and
on the defensive. Especially if they haven’t worked anywhere
else before they would find it hard to say why they want
to work for this specific organisation – they just want a
job. The combination of a lack of knowledge about how
important researching the organisation is, how competitive the
recruitment process is and how to ‘sell’ themselves to potential
employers means that a young person sets themselves up to fail
the expectations of the prospective employer.
However, as we will see below, many employers have
started to realise that they can’t interview a young person
the same way as any other, more experienced worker and
that it is in their interests to rethink this. ‘Employers need
to look for behaviours and a capacity to learn and develop,
when recruiting young people. We shouldn’t focus on their
immediate ability to deliver, as is the case when we recruit
more experienced workers,’ argues Samantha Follington,
HR Business Partner at Veolia. She believes that traditional
one-to-one interviews might not be the best environment for
young people to showcase their skills, recommending more
interactive group sessions and assessment centres, which have
worked well for Veolia’s apprentices.
Michael Brewis from Aberdeenshire Council also highlights the
importance of helping young people prepare for the interview
process if they have had no previous experience. Wherever
possible he or someone else from HR will sit down with the
candidate beforehand to tell them what to expect from the
interview to try to put them at ease and provide some informal
coaching if they are receptive.
Robert Allen, HR Director at Apex Hotels, says it is important
to get managers on board at the interview stage in order to
ensure they understand the benefits of recruiting young people.
‘We talk a lot to our managers about this. Experience is nice
to have but it’s not the only important factor. For us attitude
is the key. We recruit for attitude and we train for skills. When
we interview we are looking for how people react, their body
language and soft skills.’
Our Steps Ahead mentors told us that this was also about good
recruitment more generally; they found it frustrating that they tried
to teach their young jobseekers about good practice and how to
do a good interview and they are then interviewed by someone
who doesn’t know how to do good interviews, who hasn’t got the
right skills to recruit people. ‘One way to make a young person feel
more comfortable is to tell them in advance about the interview
and talk them through the process, what questions you will ask,’
says Jo, a Steps Ahead mentor from Leicester.
The young people themselves described their ideal interview
situation as more informal; they want it to be less like an interview
and more like a chat. Instead of sitting at a desk, they suggest
a walk around the building, with the employer showing the
workplace, which would make it less intense for the young person.
‘If we don’t give feedback to young people they won’t apply
again. I always say to them: try again, just because you didn’t get
the job this time it doesn’t mean that you won’t the next time
round. Go and work on your application’ (Neil Morrisson, HR
Director, Random House).
As we’ve seen, not providing feedback is a huge issue, not just for
young people, but it is something all applicants struggle with. Most
of the employers we spoke to have recognised this and try to do as
much as possible, but it is clear that more needs to be done.
‘We need to give negative feedback to young people so they
can improve,’ argues Marc Anderson-Boyd. ‘This is so important;
I always try and take the time to talk to our providers about
this. Most of my feedback tends to be around basic manners,
for example that young people need to shake hands when they
introduce themselves. I once had a young man who continued to
talk on the phone to someone when he introduced himself to me,
I fed back that this wasn’t appropriate and how important the first
Our mentors said this is very important for the young person
so they can improve and increase their chances of getting a
job the next time round. But they also made an interesting
point about the employer brand: if an organisation does not
provide feedback, young people won’t want to work there and
won’t apply again. Another example of good practice we’ve
come across is employers referring unsuccessful candidates to
organisations in their supply chain to make the best use of their
pool of candidates.
When we asked JCP advisers in our poll about what employers
can do to engage with young people, providing feedback was the
top answer given (67%), well above making recruitment more
transparent and advertising more with JCP.
We know it is difficult for employers to provide feedback due to
the large volumes of applications they receive, but we recommend
employers do as much as they can, and at least:
• acknowledge each application with an automated email
• list ‘common reasons’ applications have not been shortlisted
in an email/letter to candidates; provide links to support – this
could be either to our mentoring initiative, the WORKing FOR
YOUth initiative, the Prince’s Trust or links to other charities
• provide candidates that made it through to the interview/
assessment centre stage with personal, tailored feedback –
this needs to be honest but positive and constructive.
As a follow-up, we will also work with other employer bodies to
develop common recommendations in this area.
38 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND
POLICY-MAKERS IN THIS?
‘What young people need isn’t just a mock interview when they’re
about to enter the labour market. What they need are 30 minutes
per week lessons of interview technique, advice on where to look
for work and how to go about applying for a job’ (Neil Morrison,
HR Director, Random House).
This research has been very much about what employers can and
should do to improve labour market access for young people.
However, the Government and policy-makers of course also have
a role to play. We’d like to highlight two key issues that have come
out of this work: first, the need for more support for young people
during the transitions phase. As we’ve seen, most young people
don’t know where to turn when they try to enter the labour
market – JCP is clearly not the right government delivery agency
to give extensive career advice and guidance to young people. This
is why our mentoring initiative, Steps Ahead, is working so well
as it fills a gap in the market. However, there is only so much that
individual volunteers can do to fill that gap, so a more prominent,
dedicated support in this area for young jobseekers is desirable.
Second, and further to the point Neil Morrison makes in the
quote above, careers advice and guidance and work preparation
need to be a part of the National Curriculum and schools need to
be assessed in how well they are doing in this area to incentivise
them to put more effort into this. We’ve asked our young people
what they would do if they were Education Minister to make
improvements in this area and here is what they’ve come up
• don’t rely on teachers but get external expertise
• pay attention to those areas where it is needed; address the
patchiness of the current advice
• get more involved – career advice and guidance needs to be
part of the curriculum
• a support agency such as ‘Connexions’
• more information on choices, in particular apprenticeships
and other alternatives to university
• support employer contact and work experience
• better advice and information on career pathways.
At the CIPD we have highlighted in previous publications the need
for high-quality advice, information and guidance in schools that
promotes all possible career options. Currently this does not exist.
This research shows, again, how vitally important it is that policy-
makers take this issue seriously and review their policies in this area
with great urgency.
39EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
This research shows that there is a clear divide between young
people and employers at the recruitment stage. It also shows
that while there is a lot of good practice out there already, a
lot more needs to be done to address this mismatch and to
improve the matching of young people and job opportunities.
We’ve also found a clear business case for employers to make
their practices more youth-friendly, as those that have done so
have improved their ability to attract talent and get the right
skills. Finally, our research demonstrates that young people
need more support and guidance, at the point of entry into
the labour market and before, around opportunities and how
to access them.
We will take this agenda forward in the context of the
CIPD’s Learning to Work programme, which gets employers
involved in tackling youth unemployment. The aim is to drive
an increase in employer engagement with young people, so
that businesses help prepare young people for work as well
as make their organisations more youth-friendly by adapting
their recruitment practices.
Over the coming months we will build on this research and
aim to tackle some of the issues by:
• producing tailored guidance for both, employers and young
people in collaboration with key stakeholders, including the
Prince’s Trust, other employer bodies such as the BITC and
the BCC, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation
(REC) as well as Unionlearn and Acas
• getting even more CIPD members involved in up-skilling
young people about job search and applications, both at
school and when looking for work through the expansion
of our mentoring initiative, Steps Ahead, and a new project
with the Education and Employers Taskforce (EET) that aims
to increase the number of high-quality apprenticeships
applications by young people
• aiming to work with the National Apprenticeships Service
(NAS) to help achieve improvements in the match between
the apprenticeships opportunities offered by employers and
young people’s applications.
To achieve this, we will work with an advisory group of
employers, CIPD members and employer bodies, as well as
policy-makers and relevant charities.
40 LEARNING TO WORK Today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce
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41EMPLOYERS ARE FROM MARS, YOUNG PEOPLE ARE FROM VENUS
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The CIPD’s Learning to Work programme is supported by an
advisory group. The members of this group are listed below:
Adam Swash, Experian
Ann Pickering, O2-Telefonica UK
Alan MacKinnon, IHS Consulting
Anthony Mann, Education and Employers Taskforce (EET)
Claire Warren, People Management Magazine
David Hodges, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry
David Massey, UK Commission for Employment and Skills
David Pollard, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
David Taylor, Acas
Derek Kozel, Young Chamber
Dean Shoesmith, London Boroughs of Sutton and Merton
Elizabeth Eddy, NHS Employers
Fran Parry, Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (CESI)
Fred Grindrod, Unionlearn
Gerard O’Donnell, BiTC
Louise Batchelor, Standard Chartered
Jane Daly, Marks & Spencer
Jo Ward, Nestlé
John Wastnage, British Chambers of Commerce (BCC)
Kate Bellew, O2-Telefonica UK
Kate Shoesmith, Recruitment and Employment
Matthias Feist, Regent’s University
Nicola Moore, London Youth
Nikki Wade, The Prince’s Trust
Patrick Newton, Confederation of British Industry
Rowena James, BSkyB
Samantha Follington, Veolia
Richard Marsh, National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tess Lanning, Office of Ed Miliband
Verity O’Keeffe, EEF
Please note that the membership of the group is evolving and
that this list reflects the composition of the group at the time
of publication. For more information about the advisory group
and to get involved in the CIPD’s Learning to Work programme,
please contact Annie Peate on firstname.lastname@example.org